Sanders challenges explanation for event cancellation

An MSNBC town hall-style gathering scheduled to take place in a military armory in West Virginia with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was unexpectedly canceled after the National Guard deemed it too political an event for the space.

The cancellation, first reported by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, led Sanders to blast off a statement pledging to visit the state one way or another.

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders. File Photo by Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner

“If anyone in West Virginia government thinks that I will be intimidated from going to McDowell County, West Virginia, to hold a town meeting, they are dead wrong,” he wrote in a Facebook post Sunday. “If they don’t allow us to use the local armory, we’ll find another building. If we can’t find another building, we’ll hold the meeting out in the streets. That town meeting will be held. Poverty in America will be discussed. Solutions will be found.”

The National Guard cited various Department of Defense statutes in explaining its decision to cancel the event. One 2005 department rule mandates that “installations shall not engage in, nor allow their tenant activities to engage in, activities that could be interpreted as associating the installation with any partisan political causes, issues, or candidates.”

However, according to the Gazette-Mail, the state has allowed political events at National Guard armories in the past. They include campaign events featuring former Republican President George H.W. Bush and former Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Sanders said the event had been scheduled for weeks, and he questioned the cancellation.

“Yesterday, I was informed that someone in the West Virginia state government made a last minute decision to cancel MSNBC’s use of a National Guard armory that Chris Hayes and I were going to use to hold a town meeting in McDowell County, West Virginia,” he wrote on Facebook. “The arrangements had been agreed to several weeks before and hundreds of people in the area had signed up to attend the meeting that was going to be broadcast on Chris’s show.”

Sanders trounced Hillary Clinton in West Virginia’s presidential primary, 51 percent to 36 percent. In the runup to the primary, Sanders held a forum on poverty in McDowell County, which is one of the most impoverished parts of the country.

Jasper Craven

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