Update:After we wrote about six different students who were banned from attending Congressman Paul Ryan's speech in Lakewood yesterday, an anonymous source sent us a screenshot from one of their Facebook pages that mentions tomatoes and glitter bombs. The image seemingly contradicts claims by at least one of the students that he didn't plan to cause a scene. See it below.
This screenshot from the page of Alexandra Coulter (below) -- the first person we talked to today, who supports Obama but wanted to hear Ryan speak -- includes a conversation in which friends suggest she bring a glitter bomb and a tomato to the rally. In the first exchange, a post reads, "Glitter bomb!," to which Coulter replies, "Ooo! Where do I get one?" Later, another post suggests that she "bring a tomato." To that, she replies, "Will do!"
If these kinds of posts were seen by the campaign, it's possible that the students could've been flagged before the event rather than being expelled after being overheard speaking to yours truly. And we know, as we reported earlier, that a Romney campaign volunteer did comment on the status of Jacob Spetzler, another student who was banned, warning him that protesters would not be allowed to attend.
But all the students we've talked to say they had no intention of protesting or heckling and brought no signs or any other materials to protest. They planned to just listen.
When contacted Tuesday afternoon about the Facebook post, Coulter said she sees how the post could be misleading but insists that everything posted was sarcastic or silly. "I wouldn't do that," she says, referring to glitter bombing or throwing tomatos. "What am I going to do? Get arrested...That was all silliness...I definitely had zero plans to do that."
Look through the back-and-forth for yourself here:
Romney's campaign declined to weigh in on the issue, though after our inquiries about these students' claims, Ciara Matthews, Colorado communications director for Romney, sent this unrelated statement:
Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan bring bold leadership and decades of experience to the Presidential race that is exciting voters across Colorado. Today's event was a successful opportunity for Congressman Ryan to take the Romney-Ryan ticket's message of turning the economy around and strengthening the middle class straight to the voters of the Centennial State.
Click through to read our earlier coverage. Update, 2 p.m. August 14: Earlier today, we reported that four students who don't support Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were banned from the vice presidential candidate's Lakewood rally after they were overheard speaking to yours truly; see our complete coverage below.
Afterward, I was contacted by two other students who were also denied entry, including Jacob Spetzler, seen here. And their story is even stranger.
Jacob Spetzler, an eighteen-year-old rising freshman, got a ticket last night to watch Ryan speak today. He then posted a Facebook status that read, "who else is going to the paul ryan rally? are signs expressing our displeasure in order?"
One of his high school friends, who volunteers for the Romney campaign, apparently saw the status and commented: "just so you know, protesters won't get in tomorrow."
Here's a screenshot of the status that Spetzler shared with us this afternoon:
Spetzler, who is friends with the students we wrote about earlier today, saw the comment and decided against protesting or bringing signs. He and friend Sophia Kagan arrived at Lakewood High School, where the speech was scheduled to take place, at around 9:30 a.m. without any signs or any intentions of protesting, he says. But when he got to the front of the line after waiting for around an hour, he reveals that the former high school classmate and volunteer mentioned earlier spotted him.
According to Spetzler, his former peer then rushed from the ticket scanner and whispered to others working at the event, pointing in his direction. When it came time for him and his friend to get their tickets scanned, he said they were told the scanners "weren't working" and the campaign couldn't find their names on the list. He insisted that they try again until another staffer, who said seemed to be more of a higher up, was brought over.
"He told us in no uncertain terms to leave," Spetzler says.
At that point, Spetzler asked the staffers to search for his friend's name -- and when this tactic didn't work, they tried to gain entry through a line for non-ticket holders, only to again be told they weren't allowed in.
Then they left.
Spetzler says he's a registered independent (a key demographic that both candidates are trying to attract) and his political views are pretty centrist. He says he'll probably vote for Obama, but that's not the point.
"I'm still deciding [who to vote for], and I would like to have seen him speak," Spetzler says. "I feel like they are trying to build this bubble...like they are only preaching to the choir."
He adds, "I didn't have anything on me."
We asked two Romney spokespeople at the event to speak with us about this situation and the earlier one recounted below. They said that at this time, they have no comment.
Original post, 11:33 a.m. August 14: This morning, when we were interviewing supporters at the Lakewood rally for newly-announced Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan (look for that post soon), we stumbled upon four students at the front of the line who told us they weren't supporters of Mitt Romney, but came here to listen.
About fifteen minutes later, the students -- who had been waiting since around 8 a.m. -- told us event organizers who'd overheard our conversation had denied them access, saying their "tickets were no longer valid."
After getting this information, the students tried to get in one of the non-ticket-holder lines, since they heard there was space available and people who didn't pick up tickets in advance were being allowed to enter. But then, they say, they heard one of the organizers tell another not to let them in.
"We got kicked out," says Alexandra Coulter, an eighteen-year-old DU economics student. "They heard us giving an interview and then they said our tickets were invalid. That's a violation of free speech.... I'm pretty angry."
She adds, "We were not there to heckle or protest, just to listen."
She says she supports President Obama, but adds, "Maybe I could've been convinced!"
Coulter says she and her friends tried different ways of seeing the speech, even splitting up in line, but were continually denied access.
"I feel like this is a charade. They are saying our ticket was invalidated, but that's a blatant lie," adds her friend, nineteen-year-old Vianes Rodriguez, who studies policial science.
"We weren't gonna hassle the crowd at all," he adds. "I'm just really interested in politics. I tend to lean toward the Democratic Party, but I wanted to hear [Paul Ryan]."
Coulter, in our interview earlier, says she doesn't suport Ryan, because "he's just so out of touch. He doesn't support abortions... [after] rape and incest? Are you kidding me?"
As of this writing, the students say they've given up trying to get in.
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We've mentioned this situation to local spokespeople for the Romney campaign, who say they are looking into the matter.
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