Divide Among Illinois Democrats On Display During First Night Of DNC | WBEZ
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Divide Among Illinois Democrats On Display During First Night Of DNC

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There’s a clear divide on display at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia between Illinois’ Bernie Sanders supporters and those who are backing Hillary Clinton. It’s pitting some political newcomers against some powerful established Illinois Democrats.

On the floor of the convention, the Illinois delegation scored seats where they can’t see the stage too well, but they’re still right in the middle of the action. On Monday night, Illinois delegates were right next to a group of Sanders supporters from California who frequently booed speakers throughout the night.

That included First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech.

Cook County Commissioner John Daley was among many Illinois delegates who couldn’t believe that people would heckle the first lady.

“You don’t boo her. Please. Michelle Obama? She represents the best of this country,” Daley said.

He said he understands that Sanders supporters have worked hard for their candidate, but now it’s time for the party to come together. Many Illinois Clinton delegates tried to shut down the boos. Some waved signs at the hecklers that said “Love Trumps Hate,” while U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly tried shushing them.

“I just think they’re being rude. I understand, you know, their person didn’t win but do they want Trump to win? They’re at the Democratic convention! What do they want?” Kelly said. “You know we gotta pull together. It’s frustrating.”

But for many Sanders delegates, it’s just not that simple.

Two Sanders delegates cried while talking about what their candidate has meant to them.

Luis Aguilar, from McHenry, Ill., was elected in the March primary to be a Sanders delegate, and said he’s a first generation immigrant.

“I get emotional but I stand up for what people want. But right now I feel like my voice here for the people that I’m representing is kind of being shut out,” Aguilar said.

He vented about those Love Trumps Hate signs being passed around because he thought they were being used by Clinton supporters to cover up anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership signs that Sanders supporters were waving. He saw those “Love Trumps Hate” signs as a bigger show of disrespect for all the Sanders supporters in the arena.

Similarly, Hillary Colby from Aurora, Ill., thought the same thing about some swag bags she got when she checked into the Illinois delegation’s hotel.

“The bag they had was I’m With Hillary and it was in the shape of Illinois and the Hillary pin and another Hillary nametag,” she sighed and added that of they didn’t have there own Bernie swag, "there wouldn’t even be a sign of Bernie’s existence here. And that’s hard.”

Colby said when she got up from her seat, it was filled by Clinton supporters when she got back. And her Bernie gear was on the floor.

She eventually grew so bothered by feeling ignored - on the night that Sanders was speaking himself - that she left the arena altogether to instead watch the Sanders speech on TV at the hotel bar. She drank screwdrivers because she says Sanders is getting screwed.

Colby’s not bothered by the idea that she’s skipping the one speech she came to Philadelphia to see.

“I will definitely be registering as an independent. Oh, look she’s crying too,” Colby said when she saw a Sanders supporter on TV tearing up. “I knew this was going to suck. And that’s why I didn’t go because I knew that I’d be in tears.”

Colby said there’s no way she’d vote for Donald Trump, but she’s open to voting Green Party if she thinks Illinois is going for Clinton without her vote.

She said she plans to stick around all week because some Sanders supporters have specific shirts they intend to wear on Thursday during Clinton’s big speech. And they plan to turn their backs to her, even though she says the Sanders campaign has asked them not to.

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