The Nevada State Democratic Convention was supposed to end at 7 p.m. Saturday. When backers for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were still raging at each other at 10 p.m., the Paris Las Vegas hotel told organizers the event needed to end.
According to various reports, Sanders supporters yelled, threw chairs and booed Clinton surrogate Barbara Boxer, incensed by a process they saw as rigged in Clinton's favor. Clinton backers responded by calling for the disruptive Sanders delegates' arrests.
Jennifer Forkish, a spokeswoman for Caesars Las Vegas, which owns the hotel, said in a statement that the convention "ran four hours past its scheduled end time, forcing the security paid for by event operators to leave their posts as their shifts ended. Without adequate security personnel, and in consultation with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and event organizers, a decision was made that it was in the best interest of everyone in attendance to end the event."
In a Medium post published Monday, the Nevada Democrats placed the blame for the mess squarely at the feet of the Sanders campaign, which they said was "deliberately sharing misinformation about how the convention operates to get people riled up" in advance of the convention "after starting this fire, they had no capacity — and no desire — to control their own supporters."
In the event's aftermath, party chair Roberta Lange's phone number and email address were posted online — at times alongside images of dead animals — by incensed Sanders supporters. The state Democratic Party says Lange received thousands of death threats, threats of violence and insults. The party archived online a selection of the harassing texts and voicemails, in which Lange is called a "cunt," "bitch" and "criminal;" the messages also include references to personal details like her home address and the location of her grandchildren's school. The party's headquarters was reportedly vandalized Sunday, with graffiti reading "Roberta Lange murdered democracy," "You are scum," and "Cheating is not winning."
Neither the Sanders campaign nor its Nevada state director immediately responded to calls and emails about the outcome of the convention (15 delegates for Bernie, 20 for Hillary) or the accusations against them. Ditto for the Clinton campaign and its Nevada state director. The Nevada State Democratic Party's spokesman and Roberta Lange likewise did not respond to multiple requests for comment. (Lange's mailbox was full, presumably because of the high volume of voicemails she had received.)
Saturday's convention was a characteristically acrimonious — if unusually violent — end to the fight over the Silver State's 35 pledged delegates. Back in February, the Sanders campaign was optimistic about its chances going into the Nevada caucuses, but ultimately suffered a narrow defeat — earning 47.3 percent of the vote to Clinton's 52.6 — amid complaints of inconsistencies at caucus sites.
A month and a half later, their fortunes reversed: the Sanders campaign was able to turn out enough delegates and alternates at the Clark County convention to flip the results in Nevada's largest and most important county in their favor, snatching the equivalent of two delegates from the Clinton column. The Sanders campaign pledged to take their fight to the state convention, where they hoped to win even more delegates.
But things didn't go as planned. At Saturday's convention, Sanders and Clinton supporters clashed early over the adoption of a set of temporary rules to govern the proceedings. The Nevada Sun reported that Sanders backers rushed to the front of the room, shouting, "This is fixed!" and, "No confidence!" at party officials, while Clinton supporters called for those shouting to be arrested.
According to the Nevada Democratic Party, the Sanders campaign had a sizable advantage in delegate slots (2,124 to Clinton's 1,722) going into the convention, but it failed to fill all of those slots — only 1,662 Sanders delegates showed up on Saturday, compared to 1,693 Clinton ones.
Sanders supporters argue that the party refused to credential 64 of their delegates. By comparison, just eight Clinton delegates were disqualified in a similar manner.
Of the 64 disputed Sanders delegates, the party contends, only eight showed up at the convention on Saturday, and six were ultimately seated. The remaining 58 were disqualified, the party claims, either because they were not registered as democrats by May 1st, or because they did not respond to the party's attempts to verify their names, birthdays and addresses.
The delegate difference was ultimately enough to help Clinton win back the two delegates she lost at the Clark County convention, locking up 12 delegates heading into the national convention — for a total of 20 delegates to Sanders' 15.
In addition to the 35 pledged delegates apportioned at Saturday's state convention, Nevada has eight superdelegates. One has committed to support Sanders at the national convention, four have committed to support Clinton and three remain undecided.
Update, 3:30 p.m.
Bernie Sanders released a statement Tuesday afternoon addressing the allegations leveled by the Nevada Democratic Party against his supporters. He offered no apology, but issued a condemnation of "any and all forms of violence, including personal harassment of individuals."
He added, "But, when we speak of violence, I should add here that months ago, during the Nevada campaign, shots were fired into my campaign office in Nevada," he said, referring to an incident in January when a bullet pierced the window of his Las Vegas headquarters on a day the candidate was on site. "And apartment housing complex my campaign staff lived in was broken into and ransacked."
Sanders went on to denounce the way the Nevada state convention was conducted, saying Lange should at the very least have held a head-count rather than an yay/nay voice vote, and accusing her of refusing to acknowledge motions from the floor or accept any petitions for amendments in violation of the rules. Sanders also protested the disqualification, "en mass," of 58 of his delegates.
"These are on top of failures at the precinct and county conventions," Sanders said, "including trying to depose and then threaten with arrest the Clark County convention credentials chair because she was operating too fairly."