Sen. Bernard Sanders defended his supporters Tuesday and said the Democratic Party must show them more respect in the wake of increasingly testy clashes over selection of delegates to the party's nominating convention this summer.
While condemning violence, Mr. Sanders said Saturday's state convention in Nevada showed party officials are trying to thwart his supporters rather than welcome them into the upcoming battle against likely GOP nominee Donald Trump.
"If the Democratic Party is to be successful in November, it is imperative that all state parties treat our campaign supporters with fairness and the respect that they have earned," he said in a statement.
He accused "the Democratic leadership" in Nevada of using its powers to "prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place" and ticked off a series of breaches made by the convention chairman.
Mr. Sanders also threw down the gauntlet for the broader Democratic Party, saying it can welcome into the party people "prepared to fight for real economic and social change."
"Or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy," he said.
The Sanders campaign had been facing pressure both from state and national Democrats to condemn the actions of the Vermont senator's supporters, who reportedly helped plunge the convention in Las Vegas over the weekend into chaos by protesting and trying to shout down the proceedings.
As party officials worked through the convention proceedings over the weekend, Sanders supporters loudly protested and rushed the dais, according to reports.
The chairwoman of the Nevada State Democratic Party also said Tuesday she's still receiving constant threats in the wake of the proceedings.
"It is endless. In fact, it has gotten worse as time goes on," Nevada State Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange said on CNN, calling on Mr. Sanders to apologize. "There's no end to the threats and the vile comments that have been made."
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, told reporters he had a "very good conversation" with Mr. Sanders on Tuesday and that he laid out to the Vermont senator what happened in Las Vegas over the weekend.
"He said that he condemns that, and I'm confident he does," said Mr. Reid, who has endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential race.
Soon after those comments from Mr. Reid, however, Mr. Sanders' campaign issued the statement that offered no apology, and while condemning harassment, said he's been the subject of those kinds of efforts as well. He said months ago shots were fired into his Nevada campaign office and an apartment housing complex his campaign staff lived in was broken into and ransacked.
Mr. Reid, in turn, called Mr. Sanders' statement "silly" and said he was under the impression that the senator had been planning on doing something different, according to CNN.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday that the DNC is "deeply concerned" about "troubling details" laid out in a letter from the state Democratic Party, and that they would be reaching out to leadership in the Clinton and Sanders campaigns to ask them to denounce the behavior over the weekend in Las Vegas.
"Our democracy is undermined any time threats, intimidation, physical violence or damage to property are present," Mrs. Wasserman Schultz said. "If there are legitimate concerns, they must be addressed in an orderly, civil and peaceful manner."
In a letter to DNC officials, Bradley S. Schrager, general counsel for the state Democratic Party, had written that Sanders activists had posted Ms. Lange's cellphone number and home address online, and that they can provide audio of threatening phone calls made to her, "which now number in the hundreds."
Mrs. Clinton won the Democratic caucuses in the state in February by about a 53 percent-to-47 percent margin over Mr. Sanders. At the convention on Saturday, the pledged delegates were divvied up so that Mrs. Clinton was awarded 20 and Mr. Sanders received 15.
But Mr. Sanders listed a series of procedural breaches by the chair of the convention, such as refusing to accept any petitions for amendments to the rules, and applauded the proceedings at conventions in Maine, Alaska, Colorado and Hawaii.
Mr. Schrager wrote that a portion of the Sanders delegates had come to the convention "believing itself to be a vanguard intent upon sparking a street-fight rather than attending an orderly political party process."
"The Sanders Campaign spent its time either ignoring or profiting from the chaos it did much to create and nothing to diminish or mitigate," he also wrote.