“Protesting is our right — whether they called the police or not is irrelevant,” Estrada, a longtime progressive activist, told POLITICO in a Facebook message. Estrada waged a surprisingly competitive primary against California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in 2018 — losing 54 to 46 percent — and is challenging him again in 2020. Estrada is not employed by the Sanders campaign and said none of the fellow protesters were either.
William McCurdy, the Nevada party chair and a member of the state Assembly, confronted Estrada and the other Sanders supporters outside his home nearly an hour after they arrived. He told them they had “crossed a line.”
Estrada shot back: “If any bullshit happens tomorrow the only person who crossed the line is you.” McCurdy called the police to report the disturbance but Estrada and the others were gone by the time the authorities arrived and the matter was closed, according to the North Las Vegas police department.
McCurdy declined to comment for this story. But a source who is close to McCurdy and familiar with what happened said that he handled the situation with restraint.
“William didn’t want this story out there before or after the caucus because he takes his role very seriously overseeing a party-run election and knows how much this needed to be viewed as a fair process for every candidate after 2016,” the person said.
The incident and three others in recent days come at a time when some Democrats and rival campaigns say Sanders’ supporters are engaged in harassment and bullying, both online and in person. His opponents have increasingly highlighted examples and argued that Sanders has allowed a toxic culture to fester among his fans. The conduct could complicate Sanders’ efforts to unite the party as he’s established himself as the frontrunner for the nomination.
Sanders has said that people who engage in threatening or bullying behavior are not welcome in his movement. His aides and allies have taken offense to the term “Bernie Bros,” calling it a smear of his diverse supporters.
Sanders’ campaign condemned the protesters after viewing video footage of the incidents.
“This conduct is completely unacceptable,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ longtime aide and senior adviser, said in a statement. “No one who behaves like this is part of our movement. People who support this campaign do so by civilly mobilizing other voters to come to the polls. We have zero tolerance for these activities and condemn them in the strongest terms.”
In a Facebook message, Estrada defended her approach. “We want justice and we want accountability and if I have to go to Dean Logan’s home, Rusty Hicks’ home, or anyone else who claims they represent my community when in actuality they don’t, they should expect that the people will demand answers,” she wrote. Logan administers local elections as Los Angeles County registrar.
At around 9 p.m. the night after the Nevada incident, Estrada and several other Sanders supporters went to the Los Angeles home of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Padilla’s office oversees California elections, including the Democratic primary on Tuesday.
“Alex Padilla, we don’t want a repeat of 2016. Remember 2016? When you preemptively endorsed corporate candidates who were funding you and your close allies?” an unidentified man said into a bullhorn outside Padilla’s home. “We want an actual fair election.”
Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Padilla, said “law enforcement has been alerted to the incident,” which he called “an unfortunate sign of the tense political climate in America today.” Estrada and other activists also went to the home of Hicks, the party chairman, on Saturday night, according to her Facebook page.
“We don’t want a repeat of 2016 and we sure as fuck don’t want what happened in Iowa,” Estrada told fellow Sanders supporters Saturday morning during a visit to a caucus site, according to another video she posted. “[McCurdy] flipped out because it was really late at night and we were in front of his house. We know what they do and we’re trying to keep them honest.”
Sanders has tried to deflect the controversy surrounding his supporters by arguing that other campaigns have backers who are also guilty of such tactics. He points to attacks on some of his own staffers who are women of color, for example, and has suggested that much of the online abuse could be foreign actors trying to sow discord.
“At a certain point, you got to ask yourself, why did this pattern arise? Why is it especially the case among your supporters that this happens?” Pete Buttigieg asked Sanders at last week’s debate in Las Vegas.
“I don’t think it is especially the case, by the way,” Sanders said, to which Buttigieg replied: “That’s just not true. Look, people know the way your supporters treat them.”
Sanders’ critics say that the behavior has also been found inside the Sanders campaign. This week, the campaign fired a regional field director after the Daily Beast reported that the staffer had an alternative, locked Twitter account in which he said Buttigieg “is what happens when the therapist botches the conversion,” Elizabeth Warren was a “dumb Okie” who “looks like shit,” and Amy Klobuchar “looks like her name: pained, chunky, [and] confused origin/purpose.”
In Nevada, Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir tried to calm Sanders supporters who were calling on the state party’s new voter protection director to be fired, while accusing her of corruption, because she had previously worked as an organizer for Buttigieg.
“Appreciate the concerns here,” Shakir tweeted, referencing a viral tweet that screenshotted the woman’s LinkedIn page. “We’ve spoken with the Nevada party, which has assured us that this individual does not have decision-making authority over the caucus count.”
The incidents also raise the possibility that Sanders’ most passionate supporters are now beyond the control of the campaign despite efforts from senior leadership to rein them in.
Estrada also dismissed criticism of her by Sanders brass.
“The Sanders campaign is run by the establishment,” she wrote on her Facebook page in response to some critiques of her nighttime demonstrations. “I can care less what Bernie’s staff thinks of me. They aren’t relevant to me or my race. I have seen screenshots of the way they treat Berners and it is absolutely not reflective of Bernie Sanders.”