LAS VEGAS — The head of the Democratic Party on Tuesday denounced the violence and incivility that marred this past weekend's party gathering in Nevada and called on leaders to reject such actions.
"Our democracy is undermined any time threats, intimidation, physical violence or damage to property are present," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chairman of the Democratic Party, said in a statement. "If there are legitimate concerns, they must be addressed in an orderly, civil and peaceful manner."
Chair throwing, shouted profanities and even later death threats to party leaders marked the Saturday's party meeting. The Nevada Democratic Party send a letter to the Democratic National Committee accusing supporters of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of having a "penchant for extra-parliamentary behavior — indeed, actual violence — in place of democratic conduct in a convention setting."
Responding to the letter, Wasserman Schultz said, "There is no excuse for what happened in Nevada, and it is incumbent upon all of us in positions of leadership to speak out."
Sanders' supporters contended that the party leadership rigged the results of the convention, which locked in seven more delegates who pledged to support Hillary Clinton, compared with the five Sanders gained. The raucous affair ended Saturday night when security at the Paris Las Vegas casino said they could no longer ensure an orderly event.
"It was beyond the pale," said Democratic state Sen. Pat Spearman, a Clinton supporter who said she saw an elderly woman hit with a bottle amid the ruckus. "There's no reason to do that. That's the kind of shenanigans that they do on the other side."
The Nevada dissension does not change the likely outcome of the Democratic nominating contest, in which Clinton holds a commanding lead in pledged delegates and is expected to lock up enough to clinch the party's presidential nomination following primaries on June 7. But it points to the challenges Clinton will face in converting Sanders supporters to her side as Republican Donald Trump also targets disaffected Democrats who supported the Vermont senator.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said Monday that it "is investigating threats being made to the Democratic office/members."
Trump has repeatedly talked about how Sanders is being treated poorly by the party establishment, and his aides suggest he could make inroads among some of the voters who have backed Sanders' insurgent bid. Sanders himself often criticizes Trump as a racist in his stump speech, but he has said the responsibility for Democratic unity lies largely with Clinton.
Clinton has been preaching unity. After notching a big win in Pennsylvania's primary on April 26, she said, "Whether you support Sen. Sanders or support me, there's much more that unites us than divides us."
Steve Schale, a Florida consultant who ran Barack Obama's campaigns in that state, said he thinks Sanders voters will return to the fold. He said that Clinton is winning a larger share of Democratic votes in current polling than Obama did at this point in 2008.
"Empirically, despite the public acrimony that's going on between volunteers, the data says we're going into this more unified than we were eight years ago," Schale said.
Nevada was the third state to vote in the Democratic nominating contest, but it has continued to be a flashpoint for months. Clinton won the February statewide Nevada caucuses 53-47. But Sanders supporters flooded county conventions that would select delegates to Saturday's state convention, hoping to give their candidate an edge on actual delegates who would be sent to Philadelphia.
Sanders issued a statement on Friday night calling for backers to work together "respectfully and constructively" at Saturday's convention. But Sanders' supporters did not seem to heed his advice. They booed when a set of convention rules was adopted over their objections, forcing Lange to bang the gavel in futile attempts to restore order.