NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

Netroots Nation organizers respond after presidential town hall disrupted by protest

Organizers for Netroots Nation this afternoon released a statement responding to the events that transpired during this morning’s presidential town hall in Phoenix. For those who weren’t there and weren’t watching the livestream, the town hall was supposed to be a civil conversation with former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, but turned chaotic when a group of Black Lives Matter protestors entered the room to voice their anger and frustration with systemic racism in America from the floor of the convention hall.

Many attendees were expecting that the protestors would ultimately march out after having made their point, but they stayed in place for the duration of the event and continued to periodically shout and chant, preventing moderator Jose Vargas from respectfully finishing up the conversation with O’Malley and then hampering Vargas from facilitating a conversation with Sanders.

Netroots Nation organizers released a statement in response, saying:

Netroots Nation stands in solidarity with all people seeking human rights. With today’s Town Hall, our aim was to give presidential candidates a chance to respond to the issues facing the many diverse communities represented here.

Although we wish the candidates had more time to respond to the issues, what happened today is reflective of an urgent moment that America is facing today.

In 2016, we’re heading to St. Louis. We plan to work with activists there just as we did in Phoenix with local leaders, including the #BlackLivesMatter movement, to amplify issues like racial profiling and police brutality in a major way.

It is necessary and vital to continue this conversation. We look forward to doing so in the coming year.

It’s important to know that this is hardly the first time a Netroots Nation event has been crashed or disrupted. For instance, last year’s keynote by Vice President Joe Biden was interrupted by DREAMers and protesters seeking justice for new Americans. The convention’s response to those activists was to bring Netroots Nation to Phoenix and make immigration reform its 2015 theme.

But previous disruptions have generally been temporary. In this case, the event really didn’t get back on track after being crashed. Moderator Jose Vargas seemed unsure of how to handle the protestors. It’s unfortunate, because the whole point of the town hall was to hear O’Malley’s and Sanders’ vision for our country, including their responses to questions from the community.

In 2007, when it was known as YearlyKos, Netroots Nation had a fantastic Presidential Leadership forum that drew all but one of the declared Democratic candidates. It’s unfortunate that this conference didn’t have a forum like that.

Adjacent posts

  • Donate now to support The Cascadia Advocate

    Thank you for reading The Cascadia Advocate, the Northwest Progressive Institute’s journal of world, national, and local politics.

    Founded in March of 2004, The Cascadia Advocate has been helping people throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond make sense of current events with rigorous analysis and thought-provoking commentary for more than fifteen years. The Cascadia Advocate is funded by readers like you: we have never accepted advertising or placements of paid content.

    And we’d like it to stay that way.

    Help us keep The Cascadia Advocate editorially independent and freely available by becoming a member of the Northwest Progressive Institute today. Or make a donation to sustain our essential research and advocacy journalism.

    Your contribution will allow us to continue bringing you features like Last Week In Congress, live coverage of events like Netroots Nation or the Democratic National Convention, and reviews of books and documentary films.

    Become an NPI member Make a one-time donation


  1. It’s a pity the Black Lives Matter movement does not know how Bernie Sanders was fighting against the draconian Clinton criminal laws that declared Open Season On Black People, since 1991 when too many black leaders were praising the bill

    # by Inaru :: July 18th, 2015 at 1:31 PM
  2. There is clearly fury, grief and a groundswell of resentment for tragic events over the years (decades, centuries…). The “meeting” became a mess as two completely different missions collided – a group that wanted to be heard, and people who wanted to have a discussion. I felt let down as neither party was served – it did not feel like progress. Yet the room was theoretically filled with progressives. The organizers and protesters collectively dropped an opportunity. And the emotions are still there, seething….

    # by doug immel :: July 18th, 2015 at 2:08 PM

One Ping

  1. […] case, the protesters took over the program and the Netroots Nation moderator, Jose Antonio Vargas, didn’t appear to know what to do. For people who might have wanted Vargas, an experienced journalist and interviewer, to elicit […]