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Convention opens to boos, but Democrats salvage the night with praise of Clinton from Sanders and Warren

Luminaries of the political left, led by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, tried Monday with mixed success to rally Democrats behind Hillary Clinton after a long and bitter primary fight that spilled into a raucous opening day of the party's national convention.

Leaked emails revealing a pro-Clinton tilt at the Democratic National Committee once again loomed large, distracting from a series of lavish testimonials to Clinton and scathing speeches assailing Republican nominee Donald Trump.

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"Trump thinks he can win votes by fanning the flames of fear and hatred," Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, said in a fiery keynote address.

"By turning neighbor against neighbor. By persuading you that the real problem in America is your fellow Americans, people who don't look like you or don't talk like you or don't worship like you," Warren said. "That's Donald Trump's America: an America of fear and hate."

But the day's output of vitriol was not all directed at Trump.

Starting at breakfast and continuing on the convention floor, delegates for Sanders, the runner-up to Clinton for the nomination, long and loudly protested what they saw as his unfair treatment from the party establishment — bias confirmed in the trove of emails released by WikiLeaks three days before the convention.

The leaks cost party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz her job and prompted some Sanders supporters to redouble efforts to thwart Clinton's nomination or, at the least, use a roll call vote to put their dissent on full, enumerated view.

Her name was repeatedly booed on the convention floor, starting with the opening prayer and continuing intermittently throughout the night.

At one point the California delegation took up the chant "Lock her up" — the derisive call that became an anti-Clinton rallying cry at last week's Republican convention.

Acknowledging the disappointment of his supporters, as well as his own regrets, Sanders nevertheless delivered a full-throated, unqualified endorsement of his former political foe.

"Any objective observer will conclude that based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president," Sanders said to a prolonged ovation from her supporters and scattered chants of "Bernie! Bernie!"

One more time, before a vast national audience and thousands of delegates — Clinton and Sanders supporters alike — waving "Bernie" signs, he sounded the themes of his insurgent campaign. He called for a higher minimum wage, expanded healthcare coverage, repairs to "a broken criminal justice system," an end to the influence of big money in politics and imposition of tougher regulations on Wall Street.

He did not admonish his supporters for their disruptive dissent — though earlier he sent an email telling them that the credibility of his campaign and the causes he espoused would be undermined by such outbursts. Rather, he let his presence speak for itself.

"It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues," he said. "That is what this campaign has been about. That is what democracy is about."

But, Sanders said, concluding the night's program, "Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her tonight."

Clinton's campaign had promised a precision-driven gathering that would contrast with the upheaval at the GOP convention, with its blunders over scheduling, a plagiarized speech by Trump's wife, Melania, and the booing of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz when he refused to endorse Trump.

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Democrats assembled a prime-time lineup that included political celebrities Sanders, Warren — a favorite of the populist left — and First Lady Michelle Obama under the hopeful umbrella "United Together."

Obama delivered one of the most passionate Clinton endorsements of the night.

"She never buckles under pressure," Obama said to a roar of support that drowned out any dissenting voices. "She never takes the easy way out, and Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life."

In an unusually personal address, the first lady repeatedly mentioned her two daughters growing up in the public eye and the pain of seeing their father insulted on television, and she shared a family lesson about treating others.

"You don't stoop to their level. Our motto is when they go low, we go high," she said, a clear jab at Trump without naming him.

Much of the program highlighted the diverse coalition that has come to define the modern Democratic Party.

Representatives of organized labor, the gay community, immigration activists and advocates for the disabled highlighted Clinton's history of supporting their side.

But the convention planners' notion of unity was more aspirational than real.

Unlike the GOP gathering in Cleveland — which a number of Republicans skipped — dissenting Democrats did not shy away from Philadelphia.

And it was clear from the marches outside the convention hall and the clamor within that they were less interesting in coronating Clinton than condemning what they see as a corrupt political status quo.

The day got off to a surly start when Wasserman Schultz, who plans to leave her party post after the convention, was booed and heckled with cries of "shame" at a breakfast of her home-state Florida delegation.

Wasserman Schultz briefly carried on before giving up and leaving under a security escort; in a further slap, she was stripped of the traditional honor of wielding the gavel to open and close the convention.

Several lawmakers, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, received a similarly rowdy reception when they spoke at California's delegation breakfast. Sanders supporters waved "Bernie or Bust" signs and chanted the senator's name whenever a speaker mentioned the presumptive party nominee.

Pelosi responded evenly, with a gentle reproach.

"People get excited about the campaigns that they are in, and it doesn't turn off the day the determination is made," the San Francisco lawmaker said, suggesting a time comes to move on. "Some people are new and just are not familiar with how things work. "

As Sanders' delegates tried to decide how much — and how visibly — to protest, California's biggest-in-the-nation delegation took a lead role in the informal deliberations. With roughly 200 Sanders backers, Californians composed roughly a tenth of his support in Philadelphia.

"We have everything from the 'Bernie or Busters' to what I call the eventual-nominee types," said Karen Bernal of Sacramento, the co-leader of the Sanders California delegation.

Though party leaders want the focus to be unity, "Bernie delegates came here with an entirely different agenda," Bernal said, speaking at a news conference called by a group of Sanders supporters. "We came here to push a progressive agenda."

Clinton, meantime, sought to focus attention on her policy agenda in a speech to veterans in Charlotte, N.C.

"I am not a newcomer to these issues," she told the Veterans of Foreign Wars gathering, drawing an implicit contrast to Trump. "I believe the United States of America is an exceptional nation with capabilities that no other nation comes close to matching. We have the world's greatest military. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

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"I'm not interested in talking provocatively," Clinton added. "I'm not interested in insulting people, including our military. I'm interested in bringing our country together. I'm interested in healing the divisions."

In one small sign of the party closing ranks, Clinton picked up the endorsement Monday of a notable holdout, former Vice President Al Gore, who enjoyed a fraught relationship with the former first lady when he served with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

"I am not able to attend this year's Democratic convention but I will be voting for Hillary Clinton," Gore tweeted. The former vice president, who won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the White House to George W. Bush, was also a no-show at the Democrats' convention in 2012.

Times staff writers Evan Halper, David Lauter, Matt Pearce and Sarah D. Wire in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

UPDATES:

8:25 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Sen. Bernie Sanders.

7:45 p.m.: This article was updated with Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaking.

7:25 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from the first lady and other speakers.

4:50 p.m.: This article was updated with details from the convention.

This article was originally published at 2:25 p.m.

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