Tearing the stubs off tickets to see President George W. Bush speak at the Sun Dome Saturday wasn’t the only restriction for admission. Those who were spotted protesting earlier in the evening were turned away at the doors, even though they had tickets.
“Ticket holders who had protest material, offensive material or were wearing any negative, anti-Bush material were turned away,” said a volunteer for the Bush-Brogan headquarters on 56th Street who would not verify her name. “Because the event was funded by the Republicans, they had the right to reject anybody.”
Tickets for the rally were free to the public at Bush-Brogan headquarters throughout Florida. The volunteer said she would not comment on ticket distribution policies as far as checking if recipients were Democrat or Republican or their intentions for attending the rally.
But she said the event wasn’t intended for Republicans only. She said Democrats who plan to vote for the governor attended the event, as well.
USF student Dwayne Holloway said he managed to get into the event with his friends even though they participated in the protest along Alumni Drive. However, Holloway said he didn’t stay long enough to hear the end of Bush’s speech because he felt uncomfortable. When Holloway and his friends decided to leave in the middle of the rally, he said members of the event staff noticed.
“They followed us as we walked out. As we were walking to get out they stood right between us and plain view of the president,” Holloway said. “And (a number of) secret service and Hillsborough County sheriffs were in the area that we were in. It drew a lot of attention to us.”
About 150 protesters were ordered behind barricades at the corner of Alumni Drive and Bull Run. Students, faculty and Bill McBride supporters were protesting against a possible war with Iraq, supporting equal rights for Haitian refugees and frowning on the possibility of Bush spending another four years in the governor’s mansion.
By 5:30 p.m. two protesters, one a USF student, had been arrested for trespassing after warning said Hillsborough Dep. Brian Alexander. At least 10 officers were present at the time, patrolling on horses and by foot, and Alexander said they planned to call more officers to the scene.
Hillsborough officers referred all other questions to public information officer Lt. Rod Reder, who was not available for comment Sunday.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Web site, protesters arrested for trespassing were Nyota Lormine, Shirley Wendland, USF student Lateefa Morehouse, USF Librarian Linda MacRae, adult entertainment club owner Joe Redner and his friends Jeffrey Marks and Adam Elend.
But the demonstrators received a silent protest of their own when Wendland, 67, walked up to a group of Muslim women and dumped water over a young woman’s head.
USF sophomore Aliyah O’Keeffe said she saw Wendland approach with a water bottle and dump the water on her friend, freshman Sarah Mitwalli.
“(Wendland) was not a protester. She walked up to Sarah and poured water all over her head,” O’Keeffe said.
After dousing Mitwalli, Wendland threw water at other Muslims. Several protesters began yelling at the elderly woman, telling her to stop and telling police to arrest her just as they had arrested others that day.
Sheriffs arrested Wendland for disorderly conduct.
O’Keefe said the whole incident was odd and unprovoked.
“She (Wendland) smiled, had a very angry look on her face,” O’Keeffe said. “Then she just started throwing water.”
A majority of the protesters were members of USF’s Club Creole, who believe that Haitian refugees, who were seeking U.S. citizenship when they arrived at Key Biscayne last week, did not receive due process.
“We are protesting the situation in Miami, so that they are treated just like equals,” said Stephan Durand, a member of Club Creole. “They need to handle the situation with due process.”
USF English professor Nancy Tyson stood behind the barricades holding a McBride sign in hopes that the Nov. 5 election will make some changes at USF, specifically in the Board of Trustees.
“I very much want to see (Amendment 11) passed,” Tyson said. “I would like to see personality in the Board of Trustees.”