PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings says he thinks liberal supporters of Bernie Sanders who chanted an anti-trade slogan during his speech to the Democratic National Convention were “disrespectful.”
But Cummings says he is not upset about it because he is a veteran of civil rights protests and understands the passions that drove the mostly young delegates to shout over him on Monday. More than 100 people have since apologized for the outbursts, Cummings said.
In an interview Thursday, Cummings said most of those who were shouting probably didn’t know that he worked with Sanders as chairman of the convention’s platform drafting committee. “Bernie got 90 percent of what he wanted,” he said.
Cummings, an African American and close ally of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, was in the middle of a speech in which he remembered his late father — a sharecropper in South Carolina — and spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement when Sanders’ supporters started chanting “No TPP” and holding up signs.
The chants referred to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Sanders and many other liberals, including Cummings, oppose as a job-killer and a way to promote business interests over workers.
The sight of a 65-year-old black man — and veteran congressional leader — being shouted over by mostly young, white liberals was jarring to many.
Kweisi Mfume, a former Maryland congressman and head of the NAACP, said the treatment of Cummings was “a low point” of the four-day convention.
“It was downright disrespectful,” said Mfume, a Clinton delegate. “I think it does not necessarily help the relations that Bernie’s people may have with the larger African-American community.”
Liberals and unions hate the trade deal, even though it was negotiated and is supported by President Barack Obama. Sanders’ supporters tried to include a rejection of the agreement in the Democratic platform, but were rebuffed.
Ironically, Cummings, a 10-term Democrat from Baltimore, said he agrees with the protesters and has consistently opposed trade legislation.
“The optics were not pretty,” Cummings said of the impromptu protest, “but I couldn’t be upset with them. Two or three years ago, they would have been outside politics” and likely protesting in the streets. “I am so glad these people are under our tent.”
Cummings’ only regret about the episode is that it may have obscured his heart-felt story about his late father, Robert Cummings Sr., who moved the family from rural South Carolina to Baltimore to give his children a chance at a better life.
Robert Cummings, who picked cotton and lived in a home without running water, stressed the value of education to his children. When Elijah Cummings enrolled at Howard University, he said his father told him, “‘You go in those walls and get blessed so you can bless'” others.