Philadelphia — Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sought unity Monday on the opening day of the Democratic National Convention, but the long, bitter primary race between the Democratic candidates and the insurgent nature of the Sanders campaign would not be erased in one evening.
Sanders supporters blocked avenues to the Wells Fargo Center and disrupted the opening speeches of the convention, often booing mentions of Clinton’s name.
The question of the day was whether disruptions on the street and in the hall, where the opening prayer was interrupted with chants of “Bernie,” were a venting of pent-up emotion or a harbinger of a rocky week for the Democratic Party.
Connecticut’s delegates pledged to Sanders were split about the protests.
“Bernie has made it clear that he did not want rudeness or disruption,” said Sanders delegate Alan Simon of Windsor. “He wants us all to keep moving forward.”
To thunderous applause and cheers of “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie,” Sanders addressed the convention and the nation Monday evening saying he and his supporters “have begun a political revolution to transform America and that revolution – our revolution – continues.”
He said he understood the disappointment of his supporters that he would not be the party’s nominiee.
“I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am,” Sanders said.
Clinton will officially be voted the Democrats’ presidential candidate in a roll call of delegates on Tuesday. Sanders told supporters “he looked forward to their votes” during that roll call.
But he also said, “Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.”
Michelle Obama, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey all delivered pleas for the party to unite around Clinton, who would be the first female president of the United States. Obama choked up as she said, “And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all of our sons and daughters now can take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who also spoke Monday, said he thought he detected the temperature of the hall drop during the evening as Sanders delegates supported their candidate.
Mercedes Alonzo, a Sanders delegate, had said she would consider dropping her resistance after Sanders spoke to the convention Monday evening.
“I’m waiting for his speech to see what he has to say,” she said.
Like other Connecticut delegates, she held up a “No-TPP” sign when the delegates voted for a platform that she and other Sanders delegates say does not go far enough to condemn the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Alonzo attended a meeting Monday afternoon between Sanders delegates and the senator from Vermont where Sanders called for unity – and was booed by some delegates.
“It’s the first day, a lot of energy, people working it out of their system. It’ll be fine,” said Marty Dunleavy, who helped coordinate the Sanders campaign in Connecticut. “People are very committed. He inspired a lot of people. It’ll all get better. I believe we’ll leave this convention hall relatively unified.”
Alonzo, Simon and other Sanders delegates received an email from Sanders as his supporters booed Clinton on the convention floor.
“Our credibility as a movement will be damaged by booing, turning of backs, walking out or other similar displays. That’s what the corporate media wants,” Sanders said. “That’s what Donald Trump wants. But that’s not what will expand the progressive movement in this country”
Sanders also said he knew “everybody is frustrated, especially by the recent DNC email disclosures. Wikileaks released more than 20,000 emails to and from the Democratic National Committee that showed the party tilted toward Clinton.
“But, as a result of this disclosure Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign. This is a very positive sign,” Sanders wrote his supporrters.
Still, the Sanders supporters’ lingering resentment made the first day of the Democratic gathering chaotic.
Security hustled Gov. Dannel P. Malloy from the path of a protest march and buses filled with delegates had to take a back route to the convetion center.
“It certainly appears Bernie has not filtered down his message of unity to all his folks,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Murphy, who crossed paths with Malloy after midday as the protest flowed down South Broad Street. “Some folks wearing Bernie shirts are not willing to listen to the name on their chest.”
The disruptions continued inside the Wells Fargo Center. U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, chided Sanders delegates from the stage after she repeatedly was interrupted by chants, tell them she respected them.
“And I want you to be respectful of me,” she said. “We are all Democrats, and we need to act like it.”
Her reprimand drew fire on Twitter, where one person asked, “Does @RepMarciaFudge think that the Trumpence narrative is going to scare us?” It was accompanied by the hashtag, “#BernieOrJillNever Hill.”
Victoria Cassano, a Democratic standing committee member from Connecticut, and a Sanders supporter, said Sanders had brought in thousands of new voters to the Democratic Party.
Cassano worked on a platform that was the result of several key compromises between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.
“Unfortunately, some people believe in a scorched-earth policy and nothing in politics gets accomplished that way,” Cassano said.