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Several NC delegates for Bernie Sanders walk out of convention in protest

Bernie Sanders supporters hold up protest signs at the glass entrance to the Democratic National Convention’s media tent.
Bernie Sanders supporters hold up protest signs at the glass entrance to the Democratic National Convention’s media tent.

Several Bernie Sanders delegates from North Carolina joined a protest outside the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday evening, saying the party is ignoring their concerns.

About 100 delegates from across the country were involved in the protest in which they walked out of the Wells Fargo Center shortly after a roll call vote made Hillary Clinton the official Democratic nominee. Some put duct tape over the mouths – to suggest their voices were being silenced – and held a sit-in inside a large air-conditioned tent that’s housing news organizations covering the convention.

Police briefly barred the entrances to the media tent, even keeping out some journalists, but did not arrest the protesters. Two Sanders delegates from High Point, Joshua “Fox” Brown and Chris Gallagher Ekstedt, walked out with the protesters.

Brown said a highlight of the event came when Sanders delegates sang “This Land Is Your Land” outside the arena.

“We’re not out there just to be angry and break things,” he said. “We’re trying to send a positive message. We’re trying to get the attention of the leadership of the (Democratic National Committee) that this is not OK, this is not just going to blow over without being taken more seriously.”

Sanders has called on his supporters to back Clinton’s campaign, but some of them say Clinton must first fully embrace their issues, such as opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Others, including many of the North Carolina Sanders delegates, say it’s time to come together behind Clinton. They stayed away from Tuesday’s protest.

Clinton has voiced opposition to TPP but Ekstedt says she’s not fully convinced. “We need to see consistency, and we need to have her firmly on board on issues that are progressive,” she said.

Some Sanders supporters say they’ll be leaving the Democratic Party, but Brown said staying involved will “make a bigger impact.” But he worries that alienating Sanders supporters could cost Democrats the election.

“We need these millennials, we need these Bernie people, and we should be envious of the energy and the passion they’ve been putting forward,” he said.

While it’s unusual to see delegates join a convention protest, Brown said it’s part of his job representing the voters back in North Carolina who cast ballots for Sanders. Brown also noted that 50 people donated money to help pay for his trip to Philadelphia.

“I feel I owe those people something,” he said.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter