Bernie Sanders wanted to convince his audience at Carthage College’s Tarble Athletic and Recreational Center in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that the only thing standing between them and whatever their revolutionary hearts desire is a dedication to radical politics. This is embodied in the following line stanza from Sanders’ stump:
“We need to remember what is often forgotten. 100 years ago– which is no time at all from an historical perspective– women in America did not have a right to vote, could not go to the schools they wanted to, could not do the work they wanted to do. 100 years ago! But women and their male allies stood up– fought back. Women went on hunger strikes, they went to jail, some of them died to say that in America, women will not be second class citizens.”
This sent the crowd into rapturous applause– it was one of the hottest lines of the night– but for me, it was whiplash inducing. About a half hour before Sanders encouraged his supporters to commit civil disobedience in order to disrupt the unjust status quo, Sanders kicked out a group of students attempting to bring attention to the cause of Animal Rights.
At about 20 minutes into the rally, in the center and to the back of the arena, student protesters held up a banner with “ANIMAL LIBERATION” scribed in white paint set against black cloth. One of the students was yelling at Sanders, attempting to disrupt the speech and bring attention to the cause of animal rights, shouting out that “a society should be judged by how it treats its most marginalized members.” As you can see in the video, Sen. Sanders kept on rolling with the speech, motioning for his campaign and security staff to remove the protestors as the crowd booed the protestors and chanted “BERNIE! BERNIE!”
What you can’t see from the video is that one of the campaign staffers, a tall, young man dressed in a wrinkled, modern-cut grey suit, yelled something at one of the protestors. I’ll never know what the staffer yelled to the students, because when I walked over to him to ask a few minutes later, he yelled “I DON’T SPEAK ON THE RECORD.” When the students did not acknowledge the staffer, he threw up his hands and stepped away from the protestors and gave the orders for the security guards to forcibly remove the students. One of the security guards, who seemed to be a friendly dude when I chit-chatted with him before the rally, ripped the shouting protestor away, knocking over a small child seated directly behind the animal-rights activists. The security guard then ripped down the banner, and a cavalcade of security guards and secret service police yanked the students out of the venue.
I looked around at the rest of the press to see if they had noticed the contradictions apparent in a rally led by a guy who directs his security guards to remove students disrupting his rally in an attempt to bring attention to the marginalized, but later incites his audience to believe that the dream of equality needs to be pursued in spite of the fact that it might lead to jail time for do-gooders. The press pen carried on at ease. I was right up against the ropes of the press pen taking pictures of the whole thing, and most of the reporters were standing behind the risers set up for video cameras.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the protest was barely covered and the contradictions it revealed were completely ignored. I scoured the internet for reports on the Kenosha rally, and the only ones that mentioned the protest were at jsonline.com and fox6now.com and cbs58.com, all local media, remarked that the protest was brief, carried out by students, and “appeared to be animal rights activists.” Although CNN reported that “why are we punishing young people for doing what they’re supposed to be doing?” was one of the most popular lines of the morning, but the news agency didn’t pose the question back at Sanders.
It is surprising, though, that coverage of the Democratic race today has focused on protestors at Sec. Hillary Clinton’s rally in Purchase, NY, including a Greenpeace activist who got a rise out of Clinton for asking her to stop taking money from the fossil fuel industry. This has been accompanied with analysis from pundits which have unanimously attempted to justify Sanders’ continued participation in the race.
Whether you favor Sanders or not, he got an easy ride from the press at the Kenosha rally. I understand that Greenpeace activists play into the prevailing narrative about the Clinton campaign. I get that it takes nuance to make a story out of why animal rights activists would protest the far lefty of the Democratic race– more nuance than a news editor focused solely on the bottom line might want to give. I know Sanders is the little engine that could, and keeping this campaign going makes for a great story. But it’s undeniable that the national press is treating the Sanders campaign with kid gloves.