By Talia Richman | The Oregonian/OregonLive
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on July 28, 2016 at 1:08 PM, updated July 29, 2016 at 9:06 AM
Since arriving at the Democratic National Convention, Gregory McKelvey said, he's felt like the party has been trying to silence him.
The Oregon State graduate supports Bernie Sanders, not the party's presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. So do many of Oregon's delegates.
McKelvey said tension over that difference of opinion hit new heights Wednesday when the arena cut the lights over the Oregon delegation as they chanted, "No More War," during former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's speech.
"It's a theme of the convention," McKelvey said, "that Bernie Sanders' supporters are supposed to be quiet and sit down and take it."
That sentiment was echoed by other Sanders delegates, who said having the lights go out above them was just par for the course.
During the roll call vote Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley cast 34 votes for Clinton and 38 votes for Sanders. Merkley was the only U.S. senator to endorse Sanders in the primary.
Leigha LaFleur said many in the Oregon delegation have "a very, very strong anti-war sentiment and felt Panetta was rhetorically building up to a pro-war statement." The first time he was interrupted by the chanting, Panetta was panning Republican nominee Donald Trump.
"To have a literal blackout occur over the people supporting the anti-war message, which is what Bernie Sanders supports, this is just more of the same," LaFleur said. "This is to be expected."
After the lights were cut, the California delegation shined their cell phone lights toward the Oregon group and started chanting, "Lights," McKelvey recalled. Oregon delegates responded by turning on their cell phone lights and waving them as well.
"It's not an awesome look for the DNC," he said. "I understand aesthetically why they would want to turn the lights off so we couldn't be seen doing what we were doing."
Officials at the Democratic National Convention did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
LaFleur said she's been in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center "from gavel to gavel, everyday" and nothing like this has happened before.
It's not the first time Oregon delegates have protested during the convention. When Clinton was named the official nominee, many of the state's pledged Sanders delegates walked out of the convention.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Thursday that Sanders met personally with the Oregon delegates at a hotel near the convention site to urge their support for Clinton.
"I was really excited to go to the convention and now whenever I go into the building its extremely awkward," McKelvey said. "We were told before everything would be about unifying the party and then we come and it's like, they don't want us to be a part of it. There's definitely going to be chants and protests every day."
– Talia Richman