Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) on Sunday distanced himself from Our Revolution, the progressive advocacy group that spun off from his failed 2016 presidential campaign, after one of the organization's chapters planned an anti-Hillary Clinton rally.
The controversy arose when the Hazlet, N.J. chapter of Our Revolution announced its intention to protest an upcoming speech by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Rutgers University, according to NBC News. The protest's organizer, Ellen Faden, originally drew opposition to Clinton's speech because of the $25,000 fee that was solicited for her appearance.
The protest, however, exposed fault lines within the Democratic Party's base as liberals and Clinton supporters admonished Our Revolution for sanctioning the event, arguing that it only served to lay the seeds of division. Philippe Reines, a former spokesperson for Clinton, offered one of the strongest rebukes of Sanders and Our Revolution. In a tweet on Monday, Reines drew parallels between Sanders and President Donald Trump.
Bernie & donald sitting in a tree, o b s e s s i n g.
Both pro-faking party affiliation.
Both pro-whining "Rigged!"
Both pro-forgetting they lost by 6,576,985 votes.
Both on a 3rd party ticket: Trump-Sanders 2016 & 2020 https://t.co/KOFhiFaVzr
— Philippe Reines (@PhilippeReines) March 19, 2018
Fadden, who previously organized a similar protest against a speech by President Bill Clinton in California, was shocked by the attention and criticism that ensued from her actions.
"When I put it up, nothing happened for about a week or more. And then all of a sudden, I got one comment, and then it was like hundreds of comments," Faden said. "It did absolutely touch a sore spot with us, with Democrats, because I do consider myself a Democrat."
The backlash elicited a rebuke of Our Revolution by Sanders, who many believe is contemplating another run for the White House in 2020. Jeff Weaver, Sanders' former campaign manager and current advisor, waded into the conversation to put some distance between his boss and the progressive group that rose from the ashes of his presidential campaign. Weaver clarified that the senator and Our Revolution were distinctly independent entities, and he added it was "no time" to be protesting Clinton or any other Democrat.
"Our Revolution and Senator Sanders operate independently. Our Revolution has autonomous chapters all across the country," Weaver said. "That being said, this is no time to be protesting Hillary Clinton or any Democrat."
The national leadership of Our Revolution put out a statement saying they did not endorse the event and that it was organized without the group's knowledge. The organization's president, Nina Turner, said Our Revolution has members with a wide variety of political opinions and respects the rights of its member to peacefully protest.
"The Rutgers protest of Secretary Clinton was created by one local group, not an event endorsed by the national organization or myself," Turner said. "With almost 600 local groups, Our Revolution encourages a wide range of opinions and respects everyone's right to peaceful protest."
In the wake of pressure from outside groups and her own organization's leadership, Faden made the decision to cancel the organized protest. She announced plans to attend the event as a private citizen, but not in any official capacity affiliated with Our Revolution.
"I’m still going to go myself, just as a private citizen, but with nothing whatsoever to do with Our Revolution," Faden said. "I don’t want to jeopardize anything with Our Revolution. I really didn’t expect this to happen."
Turner stated the decision to cancel solely belonged to Faden and the chapter's local leadership.
"This group has decided, on their own, to cancel this event," the Our Revolution president said. "We are open to working with individuals and groups who believe in the founding principals of our Revolution."
This is not the first time that Our Revolution has clashed with the public, national Democrats, or even Sanders.
In August, Turner criticized the Democratic National Committee as "pompous and arrogant" after the DNC snubbed attempts by Our Revolution to include more progressive language in the party's official 2018 campaign strategy. In February, Sanders put out a statement clarifying that even though Our Revolution had endorsed former Rep. Dennis Kucinich in his quest for the Democratic nomination for governor of Ohio, he was remaining neutral.