‘I Feel Betrayed’: Bernie Supporters’ Stories of DNC Mistreatment

(Facebook/Joe Tiernan)

(Facebook/Joe Tiernan)

The Democratic National Convention may have ended last week, but for many Bernie Sanders delegates and volunteers, the shock still hasn’t worn off. Volunteers and delegates have been sharing stories about how things really happened at the DNC and why they are leaving the Democratic party in a massive #DemExit movement. Many have said that they can’t vote for Hillary Clinton after what they experienced. We’re sharing their stories and videos below.

Elizabeth Madison, a Bernie Sanders “super volunteer” who trained and educated delegates on what to do at the DNC, shared her experiences with Heavy. Madison has a lot of experience with the Democratic Party. She’s been a Democrat for 30 years and worked on President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. She’s also worked on state congressional campaigns. She’s no stranger to the process, but what happened at the DNC really shook her up and left her questioning the whole party.

The duties she was told that she would have included working on the Convention floor as a delegate wrangler and helping keep everyone educated on what to do. But she and many other volunteers had trouble getting their credentials at all. “Since Bernie had 1,900 delegates, he was given 50 percent or 950 credentials to distribute to super volunteers and guests. The DNC was in charge of handing the credentials out,” Madison explained. Unfortunately, these credentials didn’t always make it to their intended target, but somehow got diverted along the way.

Here’s her story, and many others, from the DNC:


The Problems Started on the First Day of the DNC

A lot of the problems started happening on Monday, the first day of the Convention. Bernie delegates and volunteers were hearing rumors that they would be locked out of the Convention or replaced with “seat filler” attendees if they met with Sanders at his 2 p.m. delegate meeting. Madison received a text message inviting her to the meeting and assuring her that this would not happen:

(Elizabeth Madison)

(Elizabeth Madison)

By 11 a.m. on Monday, the DNC still had not released credentials for Bernie’s volunteers and the delegate/volunteer meeting was moved up to 1.

“Once we got there (for the meeting), they had guards at the escalators and the steps and would only allow delegates,” Madison told Heavy. “I showed them the text where I was invited to come to the meeting. They still wouldn’t let us in. They were also only letting in major mainstream media and not other people, like The Young Turks. We had to watch Bernie’s speech on Periscope outside.”

They didn’t get their credentials until 8:30 p.m. When they arrived on the Convention floor, they were first told that they couldn’t sit on the floor itself, but would have to take seats upstairs. But when they went up the escalators, they were turned away there, too. Confusion was already settling in.

Madison had free reign of the Convention floor that first night because a staff member who couldn’t attend graciously let her use his pass. She was sitting near the front during Sarah Silverman’s speech and noted that despite what Silverman said, the Sanders supporters were polite.

“She said that about Bernie or Bust people and nobody booed. It hit me really hard. But I wasn’t hearing any ‘boos’ all night.”

She said Bernie’s supporters and delegates were behaving civilly. But despite this, many weren’t allowed to carry in pro-Bernie signs:

You can see a video of the signs being taken away below:

During the DNC, before Michelle Obama spoke, Michelle signs were being handed out. Ironically, when Madison went to get a pro-Michelle Obama sign, they wouldn’t give one to her:

“The woman saw my Bernie button and wouldn’t give me a Michelle sign,” she recalled.

That’s when she saw two men who were booing and carrying on, acting like protesters on the Convention floor, but appearing very out of place and suspicious.

“All of a sudden, I see people who look like hippies, and they start screaming,” she recalled. “I didn’t recognize them. They weren’t a part of the super volunteer group. We all knew each other. These two guys were really out of character. It looked almost like they were actors dressed up to look like scruffy, deadhead people.”

Madison added:

I think they were paid to agitate … and to pretend to be Bernie Sanders supporters.”

She said that every one of Bernie’s volunteers and delegates who were credentialed to get on the Convention floor were told there was a business casual dress code to get in.

“We weren’t given our credentials unless we met that dress code, so I don’t know how these guys got in there,” she told Heavy. “They heckled everyone except when Bernie was on. Delegates had standard-issue signs. These guys had a big handmade banner.”

While this was all happening, one of the youngest Bernie delegates had a very bad experience of her own that week. Zenaid Huerta, a 17-year-old delegate from California, wrote on Facebook that she was verbally attacked by a Clinton delegate for no justifiable reason, and other delegates had water and food thrown on them for carrying “No TPP” signs. She wrote:

I saw party leaders … onlook my harassment and did nothing to stop it. I saw … a Los Angeles city councilman, high-five my attacker and then after promise to give me a private tour of city hall if I stopped crying… The behavior from many within the Hillary Clinton delegation—based off what I saw on the floor—resembles what Trump supporters would do.”


The Roll-Call Vote Bernie Delegates Expected Didn’t Happen

Some delegates would not be silenced. (Facebook/Aleece Jones DePuey)

Some delegates would not be silenced. (Facebook/Aleece Jones DePuey)

On Tuesday of the DNC, the day of the roll-call vote, things didn’t get any better. Madison went to the Convention Center and was told that they weren’t getting their credentials that day at all. She also received a frantic text from a Bernie delegate: “They changed my vote from Bernie to Hillary. They made us vote at the Convention Center last night while Bernie spoke…” Madison had to make quite a few calls to make sure the delegate’s vote was changed back to being a vote for Bernie. But she’s not sure how many other votes were similarly changed.

Meanwhile, other delegates were saying they were given paper ballots at breakfast Tuesday morning, or they had to fulfill other requirements that they weren’t expecting.

Seth Alexander shared on Facebook: “So after keeping the delegates out until 1am without food and all the restaurants closed they are sneaking a roll call vote at breakfast immediately after waiting in line for over an hour to get your daily credentials. #NothingFishyThere.”

 Giancarlo Espinosa shared similar concerns:

“Part of Bernie’s deal was that he would endorse if a traditional roll call vote was done,” Madison told Heavy. A traditional vote, she explained, is when the first ballot includes pledged delegates only.

But when she had to watch the roll call vote on TV at the Marriott that afternoon, because she wasn’t given credentials yet again, she saw that they bypassed that deal completely. Instead, she told Heavy, they did a roll call vote that included pledged and superdelegates counted together for each state.

“That’s why Bernie’s delegates walked out after the roll call,” she explained. “They were being silenced. They were not given the opportunity for a traditional roll call. I was weeping when I saw that. They were humiliating Bernie and they broke the promise they made to him. And they locked us out.”

You can see a video of the walk-out, after the roll call vote, below:

She was even more angered when she saw delegates for Hillary Clinton, who had credentials, hanging out at the hotel or the hotel’s bar instead of being on the Convention floor during the roll call vote. She wanted credentials and couldn’t get them, even though she was a super volunteer. Meanwhile, Clinton delegates had credentials and weren’t using them.

That night, she showed up at the Convention and, once again, wasn’t allowed inside the fence because she didn’t have credentials. She saw Nina Turner storming out, witnessed some people getting pepper sprayed, and decided it was better not to stick around.

Meanwhile, Bernie delegates who were inside the convention were having their own problems. Some reported that their signs were being taken away, again:

Others noticed that the DNC was turning the lights out on them if they held up “No More War” signs. So the next day, some of them showed up in glow-in-the-dark shirts:

Dennis Kucinich, a former Congressmen and two-time presidential candidate, joined in wearing a glow-in-the-dark shirt:

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(Facebook/Ayla Kadah)


Seat Fillers Were Seen on Wednesday and Thursday

On Wednesday, Madison was denied credentials yet again. She went to stay with her in-laws since she wasn’t being allowed to participate. Delegates who could get into the Convention told her they were encountering “seat fillers” who were called in to sit in their spots. She told Heavy:

I was a super volunteer. I paid $1,200 to get out there. And they got seat fillers to take our place.”

In the video above, filmed on Thursday night of the convention, another delegate shares her experience with finding uncredentialed people saving and reserving seats in sections where she and other Bernie delegates were supposed to sit.

Nancy S. Kim filmed this interview with a man who agreed that he was asked to fill seats on the floor on Wednesday night:

Mike Wilson shared this post on Wednesday evening of the DNC, commenting that their whip was forcibly removed and not allowed to return until they protested:

(Facebook/Mike Wilson)

(Facebook/Mike Wilson)

Here, in the video below, Nurses for Bernie work to prevent their California whip from being removed from the Convention floor:

Keith A. Rubino, a Bernie delegate, also found that his credentials were revoked before Clinton’s speech on Thursday. He later was able to get his credentials back, but not everyone was so successful. Later that night, he shared that Congressmen were allowed on the floor where New York delegates were supposed to be, and he was told to just sit with California. “I can’t even stand in the room and I can’t stand with the New York delegation. This is ridiculous,” he wrote. Here’s his video from when his credentials were first denied:

An elected Bernie delegate from Arkansas was denied his credentials for holding up a sign. You can watch the moment it happened here. His argument was that he was elected to be a representative of Bernie Sanders’ voters, and to do his job he needed to carry a pro-Bernie sign:

Charles Lenchner, co-founder of People for Bernie Sanders and a Sanders delegate from New York, shared on Twitter that his state whip was trying to get him to give up his seat for someone who didn’t have credentials on Thursday:

He added that state delegate whips were working together to block the view of Sanders’ supporters from cameras. Meanwhile, a Twitter account shared a photo taken of an alleged seat filler’s phone, texting a Clinton delegate about standing and blocking Sanders’ delegates with their own signs. It’s not known if this tweet, shown below, is authentic, but the video we’re showing next definitely is:

Below, a group of Bernie Sanders delegates shared a video where Hillary Clinton delegates stood up with signs so that she and her friends wouldn’t be seen by the cameras and possibly affect the appearance of unity.

“Look at us, we’re protesting so hard,” she said sarcastically, adding that they hadn’t done anything to warrant being blocked from view. She said the people that blocked her from view were the chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia (Dubose Porter) his two sons, and a Clinton delegate from Georgia, Will Fowlkes.

Madison read an article by Politico after the convention which explained that Clinton and Sanders’ campaigns worked together during the DNC, with each state delegation being assigned a Sanders official and a Clinton official to work on the Convention floor and quell dissenters.  She’s now wondering if volunteers like her, who were supposed to be delegate wranglers, were replaced by people pre-approved by Clinton’s campaign.


For Many Bernie Supporters and Delegates, Unity Won’t Be Happening Any Time Soon

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A sign held during the DNC. (Facebook/Aleece Jones DePuey)

These problems are part of the reason that many volunteers and delegates for Bernie are now switching to a DemExit strategy, where they’re leaving the Democratic party instead of uniting behind Clinton. After witnessing such upheaval and disunity on the Convention floor, they feel like they just can’t stay in the party anymore.

Sanders delegate Khalid Kamau summed it up on July 29 when he said:

I think we’ve been in such a rush to appear united for television that we haven’t done the work to be united behind closed doors.”

Watch a portion of his speech below:

Zenaida Huerta, the 17-year-old Sanders delegate, echoed this sentiment in her own Facebook post:

“I want to be in the Democratic Party, but I want the Democratic Party to want me to be a part of them—activist and all. This week I was disheartened by the harassment, condescending treatment, and censorship I received from our party. The hateful treatment I and those within the Bernie Sanders delegation received makes me resolute to reform the Democratic Party to be the party of the people… My voting decision in November’s general election will be one that will be thought of deeply and from my conscience. It will be a decision I will likely make in November.”

Madison wrote on Facebook:

I did not spend the last 8 months working from 8 am until 2 am trying to get you elected, registering voters, doing GOTV, organizing events of millions of volunteers to then be called to Philly to help and then be turned away by the DNC and HRC campaign… I have been betrayed by my party, the democratic party, and abused for way too many months now. It is done and over. So please stop these nonsensical interviews that just are not true. We will never vote for HER!

This sign that one delegate carried reflects how many feel on the topic of unity:

(Facebook/Mafruha Chowdhury)

(Facebook/Mafruha Chowdhury)

To read more about Sanders supporters and their concerns, along with the latest election news, please see: