The Hawaii delegate who made an obscene gesture at the Democrats’ national convention in Philadelphia stands by her action.
“I’m sorry about the way it has affected other people, but the DNC has been flipping us the bird since day one and it’s about time that someone flipped them back,” Chelsea Lyons Kent said in a phone interview Wednesday, referring to the Democratic National Committee.
On Tuesday, just as U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz announced part of the Hawaii delegation’s support for Hillary Clinton on the convention floor, Kent raised a middle finger and smiled.
The moment, captured on video, quickly circulated online. Former Gov. John Waihee and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono flanked Schatz in the excerpt, and all three appeared unaware of what happened behind them.
Kent, a leader in the Sanders’ local campaign, said she was angry over the behavior of the DNC for favoring the Clinton campaign at the expense of Sanders.
“I think that they’re just steamrolling us so blatantly and they just put on this entertainment cycle, but it is a sham of democracy and our voices are not being heard,” she said. “We were told to go on with this unity, but you can’t have unity without trust.”
Tim Vandeveer, chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, apologized for Kent’s actions and announced that her floor credentials were revoked for the rest of the convention after she refused to apologize.
“Delegates of both campaigns have expressed their shock and disappointment at the incident and have asked me to stress that this in no way reflects the sentiments of the rest of our delegation, regardless of their candidate affiliation,” said Vandeveer, himself a Sanders delegate. He was standing near Kent but partially obscured by flowers.
(Big Island Rep. Joy San Buenaventura was pictured between Kent and Vandeveer.)
Kent said she was not surprised by Vandeveer’s decision and said she could choose to challenge it but will not. Instead, she said she is participating in the protests outside the Wells Fargo Center that began Monday are likely to continue through the end of the convention Thursday.
“I am joining the protests with all the other delegates who have had their credentials stripped along with the thousands outside,” she said. “It’s very hot but it has not stopped anybody.”
Sanders has endorsed Clinton and warned that Democrats must stop Republican nominee Donald Trump. But some of Sanders’ supporters booed him when he spoke at the convention.
Because Sanders easily won the Democrats’ Hawaii presidential preference poll in late March, he received 17 delegates to Clinton’s eight. On Tuesday, with the state’s super-delegates factored in, it was 19 for Sanders and 15 for Clinton.
Reaction from other Hawaii folks has been mixed.
Bart Dame of Oahu, who led the Sanders organizing in Hawaii, wrote on Facebook that Kent’s behavior was “inappropriate” but “very understandable”:
The fixation on Chelsea flipping the bird is a deflection from what is important here. She expressed, crudely, what a lot of people feel. The DNC has “disrespected” the Sanders campaign and his supporters for the last 15 months.
It was only when the DNC emails were leaked, that they felt obliged to let Debbie Wasserman Schultz go. There have been no guarantees that the DNC will take steps to remain neutral in the future. No other staffers appear to have been fired. There is a dishonest attitude as though the DNC would have otherwise remain neutral.
Dylan Hooser of Kauai, who was left of Kent in the video when she made the gesture, had a different opinion.
The son of Kauai Council member Gary Hooser said on Facebook, “The finger move was lame. And inconsiderate of how it might reflect on the rest of us. Some of you think it’s funny. Try living in my shoes. People who already dislike me and my family just get to use it as ammo to undermine a lot of hard work we have done in our state.”
The Bernie bird on Tuesday was a very different species than the one famously visiting Sanders’ podium at a rally in Portland, Ore., last spring.