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County Supervisor Booted from Bush Event for Wearing Hidden Kerry Shirt

County Supervisor Booted from Bush Event for Wearing Hidden Kerry Shirt
By Matthew Rothschild

July 22, 2004

President Bush came to Wisconsin on July 14 and gave a speech in a town called Ashwaubenon, and Jayson Nelson wanted to hear him.

Nelson is an elected official. As an Outagamie County supervisor, he says he was notified that there were extra tickets for the event if he wanted one.

He did, and after giving his ID and Social Security number, he received a VIP pass a few days before Bush came to town, he tells The Progressive.

But Nelson never got to hear Bush speak.

On the morning of Bush's visit, Nelson, a Democrat, attended a Kerry rally and was wearing a "Kerry for President" T-shirt.

Then when he went to the Bush rally, he says he buttoned up a blue denim shirt over the Kerry one.

As he approached the final screening point, Nelson says a Republican event staffer demanded that he step out of the line and take off his top shirt.

"At first, I thought she wasn't even talking to me," he recalls, "because who tells you that stuff? So I ignored her and kept going forward and then she told me again, 'You, you, you, step out of line. You've got to take off your shirt.' "

When he did so, the screener pounced.

"She must have though I was bin Laden or something because her eyes got big and she lunged at me and grabbed the ticket and tore it up," he says. "Then she called the Ashwaubenon police department on me, and they came over and said, 'What's the problem here? Do you have a ticket?' And I said, 'I had one but they just took it!' "

She told the police to look at his T-shirt, and the police told him he couldn't be there and to get going, Nelson remembers.

"It was apparent to me that if I was going to debate it, I was going to get arrested," he says.

On his way out, the Secret Service also stopped him. "They took my driver's license and wrote down my Social Security number and telephone number," he says. "I started to ask, 'What's going on here? Is a T-shirt illegal?' And they said, 'No, we do this for all of the events, even Kerry's.' "

The Bush-Cheney campaign did not return a phone call for comment. But Merrill Smith, the Midwestern regional spokeswoman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, did talk to the Associated Press, which broke this story.

"These events are for people who are going to get out and support the President and who are going to work on his behalf between now and November 2," Smith told AP, though she said she wasn't familiar with the particular incident.

The Ashwaubenon police minimize their involvement. "There was no report on that and no arrest made," says Margene Roshak of the police department. "The Secret Service asked him to leave and escorted him out."

For his part, Nelson is still angry about this. "I was almost treated like a criminal," he says.

He thinks his working class background had something to do with the treatment he received. "One reason I feel that I was really selected out is because I was dressed as a working man," he says. "We were subject to extra scrutiny. Others were mostly business types."

Nelson finds it ironic that he was excluded from the Resch Center, where Bush was speaking. "I was a foreman and superintendent in building that building, and to get kicked out of it just because I had a T-shirt on-I don't see it. No one asked who I was voting for when I built it."

But there is a larger issue involved here, as well, he says.

"We got people over in Iraq getting killed for the Iraqis' rights," says Nelson, "and I think we're going to have to start fighting for our own."


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