Posted by Amy Letter at 10:00 AM
FAU GOP Debate, New View
Guest Blogger: Matthew Letter [Matt is my cousin, organizer for We Are Change FL, and an ardent Ron Paul supporter*]
As the sun settled behind the lines of trees in the background I sped northwards. I was late and still had things to do.
After fielding phone calls all day co-ordinating our members who were protesting at the entrance with our members who were with the Ron Paulites, now it was my turn. I arrived on scene just in time to be informed that our group had just been threatened with arrest if they did not cease to hand out the DVDs that we make it a point to distribute en-masse at all of our events.
Never before had that happened to us. Of course, never before had there been such a high concentration of Police, Secret Service and Republicans. Welcome to the United States of Fascism.
A group of protesters "Firefighters against Giuliani" were relegated to a "Free Speech Zone" far away from the action. They seemed a sorry lot, pouting behind their fence. I couldn't help but feel sorry for them. Our group refused to be caged up, so rather than protest in the "Free Speech Zone" they had put away their signs and began to hand out DVDs. But now even that was not being allowed. Fascism had come to town with a vengeance.
Signs posted at the entrance to the official "Debate Observation Area" indicated that it would not be tolerated to bring in Firearms (understandable), Cellphones (Thank God), or any Paraphernalia supporting a specific candidate! Squeeze me? I thought that was the point.
I wasn't even going inside, but the sight of the sign enraged me. I made it very clear to all those within earshot that I was quite displeased. How dare they. This is supposed to be a political debate. Last time I checked you were supposed to wear a shirt supporting your candidate, or at least a button.
Of course its difficult to rig an election when it is obvious to everyone paying attention that all the supporters on TV are wearing paraphernalia for a candidate that isn't the one being elected or selected should I say.
So I pointed out to the persons manning the entrance as well as anyone else within range that this was the antithesis of what an American political debate, especially one being held on a college campus, traditionally the nexus for free thought and debate, is supposed to be. People around me were just staring incredulously. Gawking as they would have had I just pulled a gun from my waist band and was now frantically waving it around in a non threatening manner, perhaps firing off a round or two into the sky.
I moved along at this point being extremely flustered and reminding all I passed not to support a particular candidate lest they be arrested or at the very least expelled.
"Make sure to be as generic as possible", I said to one person, an elderly gentleman, who then in turn inquired as to my meaning. I explained to him about the checkpoint and the sign with the rules to enter the debate watching area and so on and so forth. He couldn't believe it. "Welcome to fascist America sir, papers please" I said half-jokingly as I continued on my way.
Destination? A seafood restaurant up the street where hundreds of Ron Paul supporters were gathered. As we approached (at this point the remainder of our protesters are with me) a mob of between 150 and 200 Paulites we're heading on foot towards the 20 or so supporters of various candidates at the university's entrance.
A news crew was present filming and interviewing the handful of sign bearers. A news crew that was quick to disappear as the Paul supporters arrived. We mustn't show the vast grassroots support that his message of restoring the constitution has generated. You know the whole bandwagon effect. And we wouldn't want that going viral now would we.
A very orderly and peaceful march ensued during which the only thing audible was a constant drone of RON PAUL! punctuated on a loud speaker by words such as Freedom and Constitution and Revolution.
After about an hour of this the group returned to the restaurant to watch the debate itself. Each time Paul came on screen a wave of jubilation washed over the crowd and announced itself with a low roar of approval. Say what you want about Ron Paul, but one thing is for sure. His supporters love him.
When the debate was finally over, Paul himself showed and when he took stage despite the deafening roar there had been a moment before as he moved through the cheering crowd towards the podium, you could hear a pin drop. Everyone was hanging on every last syllable spoken by the Libertarian-leaning 10 time Congressman from Texas. Everyone including yours truly.
*This blog does not endorse Ron Paul or any other candidate (although this blog definitely leans democratic and perhaps a little socialist, which would seem antithetical to Ron Paul support), however, this blog does endorse freedom of speech, expression, and the energetic and reasoned exchange of opinions and ideas.