PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Hillary Clinton stood arm in arm with her former Democratic presidential primary opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, at Portsmouth High School on Tuesday as she accepted his endorsement. But offstage, there were clear signs of lingering divisions after their contentious campaign.
New Hampshire was a stronghold for Sanders and gave him his first primary win in February. The crowd that packed into the tiny high school gym to see him and Clinton come together included many staunch Sanders supporters, and there were isolated boos throughout the event. At one point, an audience member began shouting and waving a sign reading “NOPE.” Another man wearing a Sanders T-shirt stood high in the bleachers with his back to the stage throughout the speeches. As the campaign teams arrived, longtime Sanders adviser Michael Briggs noted that the venue was much more intimate than the arenas Sanders regularly packed for his rallies.
“It’s a smaller crowd than usual for us,” Briggs quipped.
In their Tuesday speeches, Clinton and Sanders praised each other and expressed their support for key elements of Sanders’ platform, including fighting climate change, campaign finance reform and raising the minimum wage.
“These aren’t just my fights. These are Bernie’s fights. These are America’s fights, and I feel with all my being these are fights we have to wage and win together,” Clinton said.
Sanders acknowledged his past criticism of Clinton. However, he framed their disputes as a healthy debate and suggested that Democrats could unify after his campaign scored a number of concessions in the party’s platform, which was drafted over the weekend.
“It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues. That is what this campaign has been about. That is what democracy is about,” Sanders said, adding, “But I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic platform committee, which ended Sunday night in Orlando, there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns, and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.”
Both Clinton and Sanders also stressed their desire to see presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump defeated. They argued that this could only be accomplished by unifying behind Clinton. But some people in the crowd clearly weren’t buying the unity message.
“Never Trump! Never Hillary!” one person shouted.
Several Sanders supporters in attendance said they were not swayed by his endorsement and planned to vote for third-party candidates. Helena Jensen, who was brandishing a T-shirt with Sanders’ silhouette blended with the Grateful Dead logo, walked out after getting into multiple arguments with Clinton supporters.
“I guess I should just move to Canada!” she yelled back at her antagonists as she left.
Jensen told Yahoo News she planned to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson.
“I’m very disgusted by today,” she said.
“She is a liar. She has manipulated the entirety of the… Democratic National Committee,” Jensen said of the primary process. “There were so many shenanigans with the election.”
She further accused Clinton supporters of being inconsiderate.
“The entirety of everything associated with the Hillary campaign is rude. Don’t let anyone tell you differently,” she said.
After the event, some Sanders and Clinton supporters also bickered outside. Jordan Thompson, a 17-year-old who was a full-time volunteer and intern with the Clinton campaign ahead of the primary, was trying to offer Sanders supporters hugs. But the experience turned, as he put it, “rough.” Borrowing a Clinton campaign slogan, Thompson said he wanted to show the Sanders supporters they are “stronger together,” but he ended up getting in a tense argument with a woman who was wearing a Sanders hat and holding a sign that said “Clinton for Prison 2016.” The woman said she would vote for Trump over Clinton.
“She is not a progressive! She is not a progressive! I am a progressive!” the woman yelled.
“You’re a progressive, and you’re saying you’re going to vote for Trump? That’s not progressive,” Thompson shot back. “You sound very privileged and you sound — your whiteness is speaking. African-Americans, Latinos, the LGBT community, we cannot risk a Trump presidency. You may be able to sit through four years of a Trump presidency, but we cannot. Muslims cannot sit through a Trump presidency. We need Hillary. She is the only qualified candidate.”
The woman said she didn’t think Trump would last four years if he was elected, and said she would rather “cut off” her arm than vote for Clinton.
“Then just sit at home and don’t vote for anyone,” Thompson said.
The woman scoffed.
“I’ve been voting since 1978, probably before you were born, so why don’t you stop being a pest to me and just move along?” she asked.
“I’m not being a pest,” Thompson said. “I came over to give you a hug because we’re stronger together.”
“No, I’m not together with Hillary ever. … I will never vote for Hillary ever, ever, vote for Hillary, never,” the woman said, as she turned on her heels and left.
Brittany Ross, who was wearing a Sanders T-shirt, came over to talk to Thompson.
“Hey, listen, we can all find common ground, but today is not the day to argue with Bernie supporters. I know, I am one. I’m not telling you that your beliefs don’t matter, but all of us feel like we just got punched in the gut and had the wind knocked out of us,” Ross said to Thompson. “You guys won. You don’t need to argue with us. Just let people grieve.”
Ross and Thompson hugged. Ross said she planned to write in Sanders’ name or vote for Stein.
“Hillary Clinton is a status quo candidate,” Ross said. “Bernie Sanders is not a status quo candidate, and his supporters don’t give a shit about party lines.”
While Sanders’ endorsement speech clearly didn’t sway all his supporters, polls show Democrats are widely supportive of Clinton, and her campaign indicated he would be doing other events for her. Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told Yahoo News that the campaign expects Sanders “to be out a lot” stumping for Clinton.
“We’re really excited,” Mook said. “I think he’s going to be out a lot, not just for her, but for Senate candidates.”
While Sanders declared that Clinton “has won the Democratic nomination” and congratulated her, he did not formally announce the suspension of his campaign in the speech. Sanders has previously said he would remain in the race until the Democratic convention later this month, in order to influence the party’s platform, which will be formally ratified there. The Sanders campaign did not respond to requests for comment from Yahoo News asking whether he intends to suspend his campaign. A spokesman for the Secret Service, which provides Sanders protection as long as he technically continues his presidential bid, said the agency could not comment on the status of his campaign.
After his event with Clinton, Sanders sent an email to his supporters in which he said he will announce “the creation of successor organizations to carry on the struggle that we have been a part of these past 15 months.” However, in the meantime, he said there is still “a tremendous amount of work left to do in the Democratic Rules Committee that will be meeting in the coming weeks.”
“We have to enact the kinds of reforms to the Democratic Party and to the electoral process that will provide us the tools to elect progressive candidates, to allow new voices and new energy into the party, and to break up the excessive power that the economic and political elites in the party currently have. As with our fights on the platform committee, that will only be possible if we stand together,” Sanders said.
Yahoo News emailed Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s communications director, to ask if the campaign has concerns about Sanders not officially ending his run.
“No comment,” Palmieri wrote.