At the Nevada Democratic Party convention on May 14, 2016, Bernie Sanders’ supporters resorted to violent behavior, devolving to death threats made against the chairwoman, Roberta Lange. The reasoning? They were upset with the allocation of delegates who favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders. This is nothing new, of course, except to those recently drawn in by the rhetoric of revolution put forth by the Sanders campaign. In 2008, when Barack Obama ended up with 66% of the superdelegates to become the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton quickly conceded, throwing her support behind the future President Obama. Yet Sanders’ supporters are unwilling to accept the long-standing traditions of the party, insisting instead that the rules be changed mid-game.
This wasn’t the first time violence has been employed to make a statement in the 2016 election season. In April, I witnessed the rioting after a Donald Trump rally in Costa Mesa, California.
The Trump campaign had announced and promoted a rally at the Pacific Amphitheater just two days before the event, hoping to secure the much-needed Californian delegates and to avoid a contested convention.
The Undocumented Narrative
The short time-frame was also meant to circumvent mass protesting from undocumented immigrants as well as their supporters.
Over the course of his campaign, Donald Trump has made sophomoric accusations regularly. Some of the grossest generalizations he has made have been regarding undocumented immigrants, portraying them as criminals responsible for being generally violent, drug traffickers, and carriers of infectious diseases. It should not be surprising, then, that people who have crossed the border in hopes for a better future would be offended by such remarks.
California, much like the nearby border states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, houses a significant number of undocumented immigrants. Well aware of the general response to his rhetoric from both sides of the aisle, Trump brought Jamiel Shaw on stage to share his tragic story before thousands of people.
In 2008, Shaw’s son was murdered by an undocumented immigrant who had recently been released from prison. Arrested for weapons charges and assaulting of an officer, he was allegedly on hold for deportation, but within a day of his early release, Pedro Espinoza shot and killed Jamiel Shaw, Jr. execution-style.
For many in the audience who had grown up around the underdeveloped and crime-rampant areas of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties, this was a powerful story to connect with.
Outside the Amphitheater, long before Jamiel Shaw shared his story on stage, protestors had shown up in large numbers to oppose the Trump rally. The Democratic Party of Orange County organized the protest on Facebook, declaring they did “not believe that there [was] any room for racism, sexism, religious bigotry, disregard for international law, violence, or any other such phenomena in [American] political discourse.” While they clearly asked participants not to obstruct traffic and reminded them that this was aimed as a peaceful protest, blatant disregard for rules is quite common when tempers flare.
The two blocks on Fair Drive that house the entrances to the Amphitheater’s parking lots were gridlocked. Parking spaces were filled by protestors’ vehicles to make it cumbersome for attendees. The crosswalks were filled by protestors and attendees alike. A corner gas station was used as a staging ground by mostly Hispanic crowds waving Mexican flags and holding up signs with either vulgarity aimed at Trump (such as “F**k Trump” and “Dump the Trump”) or “Bernie 2016,” amongst others. The chaos was disturbing.
Once the rally let out, arguments erupted between protestors and supporters. In a captured video, a car with passengers inside was rocked by protestors while insults and objects were hurled at them. Things escalated quickly and violence became the loudest sound of the disenfranchised. It was when police cars and SUVs became the objects of misdirected violence that the riot gear was donned and brought out.
Only an hour prior to this display, a presidential hopeful reiterated the violent tendencies of undocumented immigrants before a crowd of thousands of registered voters, voters who then walked out to observe violence at the hands of the very people group resenting that mischaracterization. The taxpaying residents, homeowners, and businesses of Costa Mesa were left holding the bill for all the damage left in the wake of rash decision-making.
Similarly, Nevada voters are unlikely to forget the reactionary Bernie supporters who incited violence when he didn’t receive the delegates they had hoped for. There is no denying that the system lacks uniformity and that change is required to make it more democratic. However, insisting that all the rules be changed because one’s desired candidate is not being favored is impetuous at best. Resorting to violence to such an end is even worse, especially when the candidate in question runs on a platform of peace and love.
Arpit Mehta is a portrait and wedding photographer, as well as a media specialist and consultant to creatives. His passion for writing stems from his desire to better understand the world from a philosophical and logical perspective, which leads him to focus on topics in the fields of politics, economics, spirituality, and technology. He lives in Orange County, CA.