update 11:53 a.m. 8-18-10: It occurred to me that I may have left out the most important details here, which is essentially that Sandstrom was able to conduct his press conference just fine--for a long time--without obtrusive interruption.--- Only after delivering his opening statement and taking several press questions were the protests so loud that it could not continue. KSL posted unedited tape of the press conference. For those who wish the protesters had "waited their turn," I wonder if you might conclude that they did wait their turn. The raw footage can be seen by clicking the second video below:
Video Courtesy of KSL.com
update 1:02 p.m. 8-17-10: Listen to a 4-minute unedited conversation with Gregory Lucero, of the Revolutionary Student Union at Utah Valley University, responding to Sen. Robles' critique of the protest, as well as Rep. Sandstrom's bill. The clip is in the player at the top of this post. For silly technical reasons, I can't get the player to appear anywhere but at the top, so this multi-update post is a little confusing. I apologize.
Democratic Sen. Luz Robles criticized protesters of a recent "Arizona-style" immigration bill in Utah saying it was "not appropriate" for them to protest in the Capitol rotunda during a press conference. Sen. Robles, frankly, your criticism is not appropriate.
Rep. Steve Sandstrom, the Republican sponsor of the controversial immigration bill, hosted a press conference Friday in Utah's cathedral to democracy, the state Capitol, where he intended to have a "low-key press conference" to get some free air time on all the broadcast networks and free ink in the newspapers. What he didn't expect--see below where he admits that he was naive--was that a throng of protesters would be there to share the moment with him and grab some free air time themselves.
Which, after all, is their right, and seems to me to be quite appropriate behavior for the Capitol rotunda.
Robles' comment criticizing her own supporters is ever-so symptomatic of the polite Utah Democratic Party. I understand their "nice guy" strategy, mostly based along the Wasatch Front. They've tried for years to lock-in Salt Lake County as a Democratic strong-hold, working first to capture all the seats within the Interstate 215 ring, those immediately outside it, and points outward. Such a strategy involves subtle political moves that won't shock the sensibilities of fence-sitting suburban swing voters who need to see only the tiniest of liberal passion from a Utah Democrat to go running for the embrace of Utah Republicans--or so the logic goes.
The Dems strategy has been working barely, and ever so slowly, as Dems have replaced Republicans in some of those suburban districts (but are still a super minority). I neither endorse nor criticize the overall strategy, but even for those who support it, Robles' comment criticizing the protesters was unnecessary and inappropriate. In my opinion, she crossed a line, even for a party that values politeness.
I haven't heard any reports that the protesters so much as spat on Sandstrom, much less caused him any greater reasons to fear for his personal safety. So unless I hear otherwise, it's safe to assume this was patently non-violent. Short of rallies staged outside of funerals or even in residential areas--which under many circumstances are at least arguably "not appropriate"--I think we should all agree that non-violent protest and civil disobedience are usually appropriate in this, "The Land of the Free." Robles should have thanked the protesters, because she's got almost no chance of passing her bill--which will compete with Sandstrom's bill--without much larger throngs than that clogging the city streets.
The Capitol is the people's house. Sandstrom can get free time in the news media basically any time he picks up the phone, but very few protesters are so privileged. They took time out of their days to organize and stand up for something they believe in, they had an opportunity for their views to be heard by thousands, they took that opportunity, and instead of praise and gratitude from an elected official who shares their politics, they got criticism. Like so much about the Utah Democratic Party, it just baffles me.
Granted, Sen. Robles, you and other legislators received a very special invitation to hang at the Capitol by the voters who elected you, but don't let that go to your head. You still share that place with the people--and they'll scream if they want to.
If Sen. Robles has any appropriate comments she'd like to make about this, she knows how to reach me--and so do you: