Young, college-aged audience members escorted out of Sen. John McCains, R-Ariz., campaign event in Cedar Falls questioned why they were asked to leave Sundays rally even though they were not protesting.
David Zarifis, director of public safety for the University of Northern Iowa, said McCain staffers requested UNI police assist in escorting out about four or five people from the rally prior to McCains speech.
Zarifis said while the people who were taken out werent protesting or causing problems, McCains staff were worried they would during the speech.
Apparently, they had been identified by those staffers as potential protesters within the event, Zarifis said. The facility was rented by the RNC for the McCain campaign, so its really a private facility for them. We assisted in their desires to have those people removed.
Lara Elborno, a student at the University of Iowa, said she was approached by a police officer and a McCain staffer and was told she had to leave or she would be arrested for trespassing.
It was a very confusing, very frustrating situation, Elborno said. I said that I had a right to be there, I wasnt doing anything disruptive I was sitting, waiting for the rally to start.
She said McCain staffers wouldnt tell her why she was being asked to leave and when she got outside, she saw a group of about 20 people who had all been asked to leave.
Elborno said after seeing the people who were asked to leave, she was concerned that McCains staffers were profiling people on appearance to determine who might be a potential protester.
When I started talking to them, it kind of became clear that they were kind of just telling people to leave that they thought maybe would be disruptive, but based on what? Based on how they looked, Elborno said. It was pretty much all young people, the college demographic.
Elborno said even McCain supporters were among those being asked to leave.
I saw a couple that had been escorted out and they were confused as well, and the girl was crying, so I said Why are you crying? and she said I already voted for McCain, Im a Republican, and they said we had to leave because we didnt look right, Elborno said. They were handpicking these people and they had nothing to go off of, besides the way the people looked.
Elborno said while she has protested at events before, no plans were discussed beforehand for a protest and she shouldnt have been taken out because she was not causing a disturbance.
If I had been disruptive, then I would have deserved to be taken out, Elborno said. But at the time I was asked to leave, I wasnt doing anything.
Elborno said shes stunned at how the situation was handled, especially McCains staffers refusal to discuss the matter.
Ive never seen anything like this, she said.
Despite repeated attempts, McCains campaign could not be reached for comment.