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UAYD's removal still unattributed

CASSIE TOMLIN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Bush supporters clash with protesters outside the Tucson Convention Center Monday following President Bush's speech on Social Security reform. UA Young Democrats joined protesters after not being allowed into the event.
By Cassie Tomlin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
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No organization involved in President Bush's Social Security forum at the Tucson Convention Center Monday will claim responsibility for denying a UA student entrance.

UA Young Democrat Steven Gerner, who obtained a ticket to the forum from the office of Congressman Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, said while waiting to enter the convention center his ticket was confiscated and crumpled up by a staffer who then told him his name was added to a list and he was not allowed inside.

Gerner, a political science and pre-pharmacy sophomore, said he assumed he was banned from joining the audience of 1,500 mostly invited guests because of his UAYD T-shirt, which the staffer asked to read before seizing the ticket.

"We had no idea that it even happened (until contacted by media late Monday night)," said Jack Camper, president of Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the host committee.

Camper adamantly denied any involvement in the regulation of audience members or any knowledge of a list banning individuals from entering.

"Secret Service and TPD (Tucson Police Department) took over security from the get-go," Camper said.

TPD officers manned the TCC entrance at the event but did not have authority to stop anyone from entering the forum unless there was a disturbance, said Sgt. Carlos Valdez, TPD spokesman.

"There's no way we would have been involved in that-we were only there for safety and security," Valdez said.

Secret Service spokeswoman Lorie Lewis said it is not the responsibility of the Secret Service to regulate admission to the event.

"The primary function and role of the Secret Service is security," she said. "We're not responsible for who enters or doesn't enter. That's up to the host committee."

John Dougherty, director of governmental affairs for TMCC, said the UA College Republicans, Pima County Republican Party and TMCC members volunteered to help at the entrance to the event.

Dougherty said there were four TMCC volunteers inside the conference center Monday morning, but none of them would have inspected tickets.

Pete Seat, UA College Republicans state chairman, said his group's sole responsibilities as volunteers at the event were reminding people in line to have their photo identifications ready at the door and directing ticket-holders to the correct seating areas.

Seat said confiscating someone's ticket is not a decision any volunteer would have made.

He said he is indifferent to the incident, though he compared the situation to his dismissal at an October campaign speech by Linda Ronstadt.

Seat could not provide details of who sponsored the event, where the speech was held or who blocked his entrance, but said Ronstadt was campaigning at a public event for Sen. John Kerry when he was not allowed in.

Seat said he was dismissed purely on the basis of being a College Republican.

"Someone had obviously seen me on TV as the state chairman of the College Republicans and asked that I be escorted out of the building," Seat said.

Linda White, executive director of Pima County Republican Party, said "quite a few" volunteers from the organization operated will-call stands at the TCC Monday, but said it was her understanding that anyone with a ticket was admitted.

Gerner said he is positive the man who took his ticket was an official at the event because he observed him pass by police officers to cross metal barricades into security areas.

He said the man was wearing a silver "S" pin on his lapel and the police identified him as "staff."

-- J. Ferguson contributed to this report.

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