(JNi.media) Bernie Sanders, who has attracted huge crowds and is narrowing the gap between himself and Hillary Clinton, was nearly shouted off stage at a Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference was attended by a crowd of 11,000, some of whom disrupted interviews with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and fellow Democratic candidate for the Presidency, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.
The interviews, moderated by journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, were intended to be structured, sit-down conversations with each of the candidates, but both were forced to go off script and had to ditch their prepared speeches. After former Maryland Governor O’Malley was given a rough reception by protesters, Bernie Sanders told protesters, “Black lives matter, of course they matter. I spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and for dignity.”
Bernie Sanders grew up in in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. His father, a Jewish refugee from Poland, was the only one in his family to escape the Nazis, and struggled to support his family in America as a paint salesman.
Sanders made no bones about the fact that he was prepared to leave rather than be forced to shout over the crowd.
“If you don’t want me to be here, that’s okay. I don’t want to outscream people,” Sanders said.
When the crowd indicated that he should stay, Sanders said, “Black people are dying in this country, because we have a criminal justice system which is out of control, a system in which over 50% of young African-American kids are unemployed.”
When Sanders praised President Obama for signing the Affordable Care Act, which made health insurance available to everyone, including African-Americans, one protester yelled, “We can’t afford that!” and some headed for the doors.
The crowd was already incensed prior to Sander’s appearance. Tia Oso of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, jumped onstage, grabbed the microphone and pre-empted O’Malley while he was supposed to be speaking. Oso said, as reported by CNN, “We are going to hold this space. We are going to acknowledge the names of black women who have died in police custody,” and then she asked the former Maryland Governor, “As the leader of this nation, will you advance a racial justice agenda that will dismantle–not reform or make progress–but will begin to dismantle structural racism in the United States?”
Although O’Malley said, “Yes,” Oso continued by reading the names of the women, with O’Malley attempting to break in, and managing to say, “My people came here as immigrants from Ireland.”
Amid chants of “Black Lives Matter,” another chant was heard, “If I die in police custody, burn everything down! That’s the only way [expletive] like you listen.”
When conference organizers were able to convince the protesters to allow O’Malley to speak, he said, “all of the lives lost to violence” should be addressed, and added, “Black lives matter, white lives matter” — and he was immediately booed, with one person yelling, “Don’t generalize this [expletive]!”
O’Malley then apologized for seeming to trivialize the situation with his statement, and said he would support police having to report all shootings and incidents of brutality and setting up civilian review boards.