Activist Dolores Huerta Says Bernie Sanders Supporters Chanted ‘English Only’–But Witnesses Dispute Claim

February 22, 2016 Updated: February 23, 2016

A claim by activist Dolores Huerta, an outspoken Hillary Clinton supporter, about Bernie Sanders supporters chanting “English only” at a campaign event appears to have been debunked.

Huerta attended a campaign event after the Nevada Democratic caucus on Feb. 20, but said her offer to translate from English to Spanish was shouted down by Sanders’ supporters.

I offered to translate & Bernie supporters chanted English only! We fought too long & hard to be silenced Si Se Puede!
— Dolores Huerta

“I offered to translate & Bernie supporters chanted English only! We fought too long & hard to be silenced Si Se Puede!” she wrote on Twitter.

She initially didn’t say how she could identify Sanders’ supporters, but later told Think Progress that the room was divided into two–with Clinton’s supporters on one side and Sanders’ supporters on the other.

“The fellow that was running the caucus said that the first person to come up to the stage could translate, so I went up. Nobody else did,” she elaborated. “Then the Bernie people started yelling no, no, no. One of their people came up, and I suggested we both translate. But the moderator decided we would have no translation. So the Bernie people preferred we would have no translation just because I was going to do the translating. It’s ridiculous, because if I had said something that wasn’t accurate, I’m sure somebody would have corrected me.”

But others who attended the event at Harrah’s casino on the Las Vegas strip disputed the claim. 


Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

“The moderator said English only not anyone from the Bernie camp,” said Erin Cruz, who was present at the rally with fellow nurses to support Sanders.

Susan Sarandan, who was also present, later linked to the video embedded just above, that appears to debunk Huerta’s claim. “The translation ask starts at 53:30 & mod says English Only at 55:18. NO CHANTING,” she wrote.

I was also there. No one shouted English only except the moderator. I was very tuned into this.
— Gaby Hoffman

Actor Gaby Hoffman added: “I was also there. No one shouted English only except the moderator. I was very tuned into this.”

The main problem appears to be the fact that Huerta is a Clinton supporter, meaning she wouldn’t be a neutral translator. The moderator said that unless a neutral translator was found, the caucus would need to continue in “English only.”

The Voting Rights Act, though, requires that translated voting materials and language assistance or interpretation services be made available in areas with a certain concentration of voters with limited English proficiency, noted the Washington Post. And Las Vegas is one of those places.

“All of that being the case, the real culprit would seem to be the Democratic National Committee (or the Nevada state Democratic party) for failing to provide voters whose sole or preferred language is Spanish with the resources to fully and properly participate in the wonder that is representative democracy,” said Gawker.

The Department of Justice, which enforces the Act, didn’t comment on what happened, nor did the committee or state  party.