Activist Dolores Huerta’s account of being silenced at Nevada caucus called into question
Longtime workers’ rights activist Dolores Huerta said on Saturday that supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) drowned out her attempt to provide Spanish-language translation during the Nevada Democratic caucus.
“Shouting ‘English-only’ — that is completely against the spirit of everything that we’re working for,” she told the Huffington Post.
This story has been updated. Please see below.
Huerta said she offered to provide translation at a caucus inside the Harrah’s resort and casino because many of the attendees were casino workers who only spoke Spanish. Instead, she said, supporters of the senator started yelling “English only” and “No, no, no.”
“The caucus is a kind of complicated procedure,” Huerta explained. “So the Bernie supporters would rather them not have any sort of translation rather than have someone like myself, who just happened to be a Hillary supporter, do the translation.”
A video posted online on Saturday purports to show Huerta being shouted down by Sanders supporters, but no “English-only” chants are distinguishable, although one person can be heard yelling, “Neutral.” Another person can be heard saying “Pero necesitamos Español” (“But we need Spanish”) from behind the camera, as well as, “It’s Dolores Huerta, my goodness.” The video can be seen below.
Huerta originally made the allegation on Twitter, saying, “I offered to translate & Bernie supporters chanted English only! We fought too long & hard to be silenced.” The post can be seen below:
— Dolores Huerta (@DoloresHuerta) February 20, 2016
Huerta has endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as has actress America Ferrara, who supported her allegation.
Update, 8:04 p.m. EST: Buzzfeed reported that, according to two unnamed sources saying they are not supporting either Democratic presidential candidate, Huerta’s account of the encounter is accurate.
However, another attendee at the event has challenged Huerta’s statements. Erin Cruz told the fact-checking site Snopes that she was at the event along with members of a nurses’ union as well as actresses Gabby Hoffman and Susan Sarandon, and said that it was the moderator who asked for “English-only” during the event, and not any Sanders supporter.
Update, 8:16 p.m. EST: Huerta went into more detail regarding the incident in an interview with CNN.
“What happened is the person who was running the caucus said we need a translator and he said the first person that comes to the stage can be the translator,” she said. “So I walked up to the front and then some of the organizers, the Bernie organizers, decided to shout ‘no, no, no.’ Then a Bernie person stood up and said, I can also do translation. So then the person running the caucus said we won’t have a translator.”
Update, 9:28 p.m. EST: Actress Susan Sarandon, who has endorsed Sanders in the campaign, challenged Ferrara’s account in a Twitter post of her own.
“I was there,” Sarandon wrote. “Nobody [from] Bernie’s side said English only. Moderator did when no neutral translator was found.”
Sarandon’s post can be seen below.
.@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
Also, Sanders’ campaign provided a statement to MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid saying, “This campaign is about bringing people together not dividing them. We expect our supporters to be respectful of all people and don’t condone anything otherwise.”
Update, 10:23 p.m. EST: A video of the entire caucus posted online does not appear to show an “English only” chant, though it does not preclude the possibility of individuals yelling that at Huerta.
The dispute begins around the 53-minute mark, when a woman can be heard telling the caucus chair, “Some people don’t speak English. Do you have a Spanish translator with you?”
“It doesn’t say anything yes or no, but sure,” he replies. “Who is a Spanish speaker?”
After a few seconds of cross-talk, he says, “First person on the stage that speaks Spanish gets to do it. Climb up the stage, then.”
People can then be heard yelling “No,” with one woman saying, “She’s a surrogate” twice. The chair shushes the audience after a woman walks onto the stage, telling the crowd, “You are observers, not catcallers.” Both Huerta and another woman are then seen on the stage.
“The fact is that I bet half of this room is fluent in Spanish, is that correct?” he asks, adding, “The point being, is anything that she says, you’re gonna be able to understand if she’s saying something that’s pro-Hillary, right?”
After more crosstalk, he then says, “We’re moving forward in English only.”