Veteran civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, an avid supporter of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, is accusing Bernie Sanders campaign staffers of preventing her from providing Spanish-language translation to voters who needed it at a Las Vegas caucus location during Saturday’s Democratic primary.
Huerta, who co-founded the National Farmworkers Association with late Cesar Chavez in the 1960s, told Univision reporter Fernando Peinado: “I don’t feel that Sanders’ people respect our community. They stopped the people from having translation [services] in something as important as these caucuses that are taking place. They are showing that they don’t respect us.”
According to several reports, Huerta offered to help serve as an interpreter at the Harrah’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino caucus site because many caucus-goers were workers who spoke only Spanish.
However, when she got on stage, where the voting was taking place, many in the crowd started yelling “No, no, no!” She told Huffington Post that they were Sanders supporters and were also shouting “English only.”
“That is completely against the spirit of everything that we’re working for,” Huerta said. "To deprive these voters at this crucial time of having a translation of what was going on – this is something they need in order to know what's taking place."
She told ThinkProgress that a Sanders supporter went up on stage as well and she “suggested we both translate.” However, the moderator decided no translation would be used.
A video of the event - starting around the 54-min mark - shows the moderator asking if anyone speaks Spanish. When Huerta gets on stage, it’s difficult to make out the crowd is yelling -- yet “No, No!” is clearly heard.
The moderator asks the audience to stop shouting and says that other Spanish speakers in the crowd can point out if Huerta says anything that pro-Clinton. Eventually he decided “we’re going forward in English only.”
“The room was divided with the Hillary people on one side and the Bernie people on the other,” Huerta told ThinkProgress. “It was really unfortunate, because there were many Spanish-speaking voters, the casino workers. We wanted to make it more comfortable for them, so they could know what was going on.”
The 85-year-old clarified the exchange on Twitter.
“I offered to translate & Bernie supporters chanted English only! We fought too long & hard to be silenced Si Se Puede!” she tweeted.
— Dolores Huerta (@DoloresHuerta) February 20, 2016
The exchange went viral on Saturday night after actress America Ferrera, a vocal supporter of Clinton, also took to Twitter to speak out about the incident.
“Harrah's casino site- Bernie supporters chant "English-only" to stop civil rights leader @DoloresHuerta from providing Spanish translation,” she wrote.
Harrah's casino site- Bernie supporters chant "English-only" to stop civil rights leader @DoloresHuerta from providing Spanish translation.
— America Ferrera (@AmericaFerrera) February 20, 2016
Symone Sanders, the campaign secretary for the Sanders campaign, told CNN that the senator’s campaign was about “bringing people together.”
"As the senator has said, this campaign is about bringing people together not dividing them," she said. "We expect our supporters to be respectful of all people and don't condone anything otherwise."
Actress Susan Sarandon, who is a Sanders support, disputed the accounts that a Sanders supporter yelled the “English only” remark.
“@AmericaFerrera I was there. Nobody frm Bernie's side said English only. Moderator did when no neutral translator was found@DoloresHuerta,” she wrote.
.@AmericaFerrera I was there. Nobody frm Bernie's side said English only. Moderator did when no neutral translator was found@DoloresHuerta
— Susan Sarandon (@SusanSarandon) February 21, 2016
This is not the first time Huerta has spoken out against Sanders. In an interview with Fox News Latino this week, Huerta said she was supporting Clinton because Sanders has not been progressive enough when it comes to immigration.
“Bernie Sanders really hurt us on immigration reform,” Huerta told FNL. “In 2007 we had a great opportunity to get immigration reform passed. Sen. John McCain was at the table, Sen. Ted Kennedy was pushing that immigration reform bill and we could have gotten that bill out of the Senate and into the House and passed immigration reform.”
“Bernie Sanders came out against it,” she said. “He didn’t call me. He didn’t call all of us who have been working on immigration reform for the last 40 years. I don’t know who he listened to, but that showed me he wasn’t really paying attention.”