Chaos broke out ahead of the Democratic Party convention on Monday as protesters jeered the party chairwoman over leaked emails showing Democratic officials worked to undermine Bernie Sanders in his presidential primary battle with Hillary Clinton.
Hours before the start of the four-day gathering to nominate Clinton for the White House, outgoing Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz struggled to be heard above boos as she spoke to the Democratic delegation from her home state, Florida.
Protesters held up signs that read “Bernie” and “E-MAILS” and shouted “Shame,” as she spoke. Others at the meeting cheered and clapped for Wasserman Schultz, who is stepping down over the email controversy. She promised to work hard for a Clinton victory over Republican Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 election.
“We know that the voices in this room that are standing up and being disruptive, we know that is not the Florida we know. The Florida we know is united,” the congresswoman shouted over the noise of the crowd.
It was an embarrassing prelude to the convention in Philadelphia, which Democratic officials had hoped would convey no-drama competence in contrast to the volatile campaign of Trump. The New York businessman was formally nominated for president at a chaotic Republican convention in Cleveland last week.
At least one national opinion poll showed Trump benefiting from a convention “bump” and pulling just ahead of Clinton, having lagged her for months.
The cache of emails leaked on Friday by the WikiLeaks website disclosed that DNC officials explored ways to undercut Sanders’ insurgent presidential campaign, including raising questions about whether Sanders, who is Jewish, was an atheist.
Wasserman Schultz resigned on Sunday, effective at the end of the convention, after the leak of more than 19,000 DNC emails put the spotlight back on Sanders’ failed bid to win the nomination and in particular on his complaints during the campaign that the party establishment was working to undermine him.
A democratic socialist, the U.S. senator from Vermont galvanized young and liberal voters with his calls to rein in Wall Street and eradicate income inequality. While Sanders has endorsed Clinton, she faces the task of winning over his backers as she battles Trump.
His supporters were already dismayed last week when Clinton passed over liberal favorites like U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to select the more moderate U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her vice presidential running mate.
“They throw ‘party unity’ around as if we’re supposed to jump for joy when they mention her name,” said Manuel Zapata, a Sanders delegate from California, referring to Clinton. “What we’ve been saying for months is obviously true: they had the finger on the scale of the campaign,” he said.
The Clinton camp questioned whether Russians may have had a hand in the hack attack on the party’s emails in an effort to help Trump, who has exchanged words of praise with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The FBI said on Monday it would investigate the nature and scope of the hack.
Trump gloated at the Democrats’ opening day disorder.
“Wow, the Republican Convention went so smoothly compared to the Dems total mess,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Republican gathering was overshadowed by accusations of plagiarism in a convention speech by Trump’s wife, Melania, and by former presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz’s angry refusal to endorse Trump.
A CNN/ORC opinion poll on Monday gave Trump a three-point lead over former secretary of state Clinton, 48 percent to her 45 percent in a two-way presidential matchup. The survey was conducted July 22-24 and had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Clinton, 68, a former first lady and U.S. senator, will be the first woman nominated for president by a major U.S. political party. She waged a months-long battle to defeat the unexpectedly tough challenge from Sanders, 74.
Norman Solomon, an influential Sanders delegate, said there was deep unhappiness among supporters of the Vermont senator in Philadelphia with parts of the Democratic platform and with Clinton’s vice presidential pick.
“There’s very strong support for a challenge for a Tim Kaine nomination,” he told a news conference. Solomon said some of the 1,900 Sanders delegates in Philadelphia were discussing staging a protest on the convention floor during Clinton’s nomination acceptance speech on Thursday, although it was unclear what the protest might be.
Sanders was among those due to speak on the first evening of the convention. Others included President Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle Obama.—Reuters