Welcome to our continuing coverage of Netroots Nation 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona! Our first convention-wide session of the day is a town hall discussion with presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, who are seeking the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination along with Hillary Clinton, Lincoln Chafee, and James Webb. Clinton was invited to today’s event, but declined to participate; for reasons we can’t fathom, Chafee and Webb were not invited.
We will be liveblogging the town hall in real time once it gets started. Patrick from our staff will report on Martin O’Malley’s remarks, while Rennie will cover Bernie Sanders’ remarks. Enjoy our live coverage of this town hall conversation, and leave any comments or questions in the thread below.
10:36 AM: Jose Antonio Vargas takes the stage to introduce himself, welcome the candidates (who will speak one at a time), and set the theme for the event.
10:41 AM: Vargas talks about immigration issues and asks about presidential candidates if they know where they come from (in reference to the nativist statements by candidates like Donald Trump). Asks if they know,“that white is not a country”?
10:42 AM: Vargas also brings up the root causes of immigraton, asks to the audience why no one is talking about NAFTA, why people are immigration.
10:43 AM: Martin O’Malley takes the stage, introduces himself. Talks about his work as Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor to make progress.
10:46 AM: O’Malley states his support for the $15 minimum wage. Asks how many people think their children will have a better life than they did. Not many hands were raised, O’Malley called the group optimistic compared to other groups he’s talked to.
10:48 AM: Goes over his successes as Governor. Outlines why he’s the best Democratic candidate. 15 years of executive experience, actually having concrete victories.
10:49 AM: Jose Antonio Vargas asks O’Malley about his being heckled when he announced running for president for being the “father of mass incarceration” in Baltimore city. Asked about what concrete actions he would take to ensure that Black Lives Matter.
10:51 AM: O’Malley isn’t doing well answering the question. Trying to defend what happened during his announcement, denigrate the people who heckled him.
10:55 AM: Have to be tougher on fighting to stop extreme poverty.
10:56 AM: O’Malley says that we need to stop the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.
10:57: Jose Antonio Vargas commends O’Malley for having the broadest and most specific immigration proposal. Asks how O’Malley how he would deal with private federal prisons having minimum bed quota. O’Malley says he opposes private prisons and “is not thrilled” about public prisons either.
11:00: Asks O’Malley about Warren’s call for candidates to pledge to support the “revolving door” bill to prevent conflicts-of-interest in regulatory bodies. O’Malley says he supported it before Warren issued the call.
11:02: Social Security expansion is brought up. O’Malley supports it.
11:04: Black Lives Matter protesters come up to the front of the stage. Tia Oso from the Black Alliance for Just Immigration comes up to the stage with, gives context about the land we’re standing on, the creation of the BlackLivesMatter hashtag, and the anniversary of the date of the death of Eric Garner. Brings up that 25% percent of black immigrant refugees who are here as political refugees because of US foreign policy.
11:09: Oso says that if we are to be a progressive space, must acknowledge the black women that have been the core of a progressive movements in the country.
11:11: Protesters say the name of black women who have been killed by police in the recent months.
11:17: Patrice, one of the co-founders of BlackLivesMatter, comes to the stage, saying that the protesters “don’t like shutting #$%& down, but are being shut down everyday”. Black folks are in a state of emergency, and if people are aren’t recognizing it, those folks “aren’t human”.
11:18: O’Malley answering, saying that that we wants every police department to have a citizen review board, having the funding to hire private detectives.
11:23: O’Malley drew boos from the audience by saying “Black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.”
11:25: O’Malley’s time is up, leaves the stage, Bernie Sanders come up onto the stage.
11:26 : Sanders opened by stating “We live in a nation where media is controlled by large corporations.” Sanders continued by describing how lopsided the media is: 95% of talk radio is controlled by conservatives; conservatives own their own TV networks. Then he praised Netroots Nation as an organization that is very important in getting the people’s messages heard.
11:30: Sanders says that there is good news and bad news. The good news is that most of what we believe, the vast majority of Americans also believe. The Black Lives Matters protesters began yelling disruptively again at this point. Sanders turns to the moderator and asks “Do you want me to continue, or should I leave?” The moderator encouraged Sanders to continue.
11:33: Sanders attempts to continue with: “The issue that we are talking about is [inequality has been the greatest that it has ever been] and we need to do something about it! The top 0.1% owns as much wealth as the bottom 99%. Maybe that is why we need to overturn Citizens United.” There are loud cheers from the audience, however chanting sounds can still be heard from Black Lives Matter.
11:36: Sanders continues saying that a litmus test he will use to appoint Supreme Court Justices is that they will be in favor of overturning the Citizens United case. There was more disruptive noise from Black Lives Matters and Sanders tries to speak to them and says “A study came out about youth unemployment in America. White youth have an unemployment rate of 33%. Hispanic youth have an unemployment rate of 36%. African-Americans have an unemployment rate of 51%! It is time to invest in jobs and education and not jails and incarceration.” There is applause from the audience.
11:40: Sanders continues “The only way in my view to transform America is to turn a grass-roots movement into a political revolution.” Sanders states that he is the only presidential candidate that will say that there will need to be a political revolution to achieve what has to be done. “This country needs to work for all of us and not just for a handful of us.” Applause from the audience temporarily drowns out the chants of Black Lives Matter.
11:45: Black Lives Matter become loud and disruptive again. Bernie waits and then tries to speak to them again “Black people are dying in this country because we have a criminal justice system that is out of control. A black male baby has a 1 in 4 chance of being jailed.” Noise from Black Lives Matter continues. Bernie continues by saying “What we are going to do is make tuition free for all public colleges and universities. We are going to push policies to create decent jobs with decent wages. We are going to repair and improve out crumbling infrastructure and fundamentally reform police agencies.”
11:50 A Black Lives Matter yells out something like “How are you going to help us?” Sanders answers by talk about the Affordable Care Act making healthcare available to the poor and that $12 million was used to invest in community healthcare centers in poor areas of the country. The noise from Black Lives Matter grows louder.
11:53 Sanders is questioned about his “no” vote on the 2007 immigration bill. Sanders explains that there were too many corporate giveaways in that bill. He says that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce really wanted that bill to pass. He continues “Why does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce want immigration reform? The good part of the bill is that it will take 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. The not so good part is the increase in H‑1B Visas and other guest worker Visas that will bring cheap labor to the U.S.” Bernie continues saying that he voted for the last immigration bill because it had a provision to create jobs for youth, which is a very important issue for him. Bernie stresses that he is against corporate interests that try to add provisions
11:57: Black lives Matter continues loud chanting. Bernie continues to talk over them saying “The problem is the congress that we have is not for the American people. We have a lot of work to do to change congress.” There is applause. Sanders returns to the subject of education and says that he has introduced a bill for free tuition at public colleges and universities. Sanders tries to continue to talk about the student debt crisis but the disruption just becomes too much. Sanders ends his speech and walks off the stage.