by Eric Beasley
When I first saw the Facebook posts about the young man being removed from the Ted Cruz rally, I made the conscious choice to only report on the facts. I spent the time to collect statements, interview people who were there, interview people who were directly involved, and actively seek the truth.
After a lot of digging, I have found a neutral, 3rd party source that can confirm what happened inside the Cruz rally and why James was removed from the event; The Frederick City Police Department.
I spoke on the phone with Lieutenant Clark Pennington, commander of the Special Operations Division of the Frederick City Police Department. I also looked into some cursory background information. LT Pennington is former Army (good choice) and has been a police officer here in Frederick since 1998. It is just as important to know who is saying something, not just what they are saying. LT Pennington was professional and courteous over the phone, very willing to talk about what transpired and the manner in which FCPD conducts themselves.
According to LT Pennington, the FCPD worked closely with the Cruz Campaign during the event planning and execution. The goal of the department was to ensure that everyone, whether a Cruz supporter or detractor, had the ability to freely express themselves. He emphasized an important and poignant principle that everyone should agree with, everyone has 1st Amendment rights to free speech and it is the job of government to protect those rights.
As far as the events within the Weinberg, LT Pennington stated that the event staff requested that the FCPD ask James to leave the venue for two reasons:
- He was associating with active protesters prior to the event.
- He was wearing extra apparel (the flag) that was in violation of the security policy at the venue.
After being escorted out of the main hall, the FCPD account indicates that James was respectful and clearly expressed his feelings on the matter. He was understandably upset about being asked to leave. Pennington recalls James telling his mother “Let’s just go outside,” which they did after the conversation with Pennington. Despite his stoic phone mannerisms, I heard a little empathy in the LT’s voice when discussing this part of the story. I could tell that his actions were not malicious, but done based on his sincere belief in his desire to protect the general citizenry.
Considering the Lieutenant’s openness and honesty, I had to ask him the Million-Dollar question: Was James removed because he was Transgender?
LT Pennington responded in a way that every police officer should. “It doesn’t matter to us, we have to follow the law.” He made an eloquent allusion to the blind Lady of Justice and her scales that was said too quickly for me to write down. I do not envy the LT’s position here, he was tasked with providing security to ALL parties involved and ensure that their 1st Amendment rights were not abridged. James has the fundamental right to free speech, the same fundamental right that Senator Cruz has. Neither one has the right to squelch the other.
I also learned something from this conversation, something that I was pleased to hear. The Frederick City Police Department has made an active and concerted effort to work with the LGBTQ community to educate their officers about those communities and ensure their ability to work together. I am not a Police Policy expert, nor do I know what this sort of training would look like, but I feel confident that LT Pennington recalls that training well and exercised it when speaking with James and handling this situation.
I sincerely appreciate LT Pennington taking time out of his day to speak with me about this issue. Between people like him and Sheriff Jenkins, I feel pretty confident that if ISIS kidnaps me, there will be hell to pay and I’ll get out of that situation without a scratch.
A Miner Detail has collected all the evidence. We have collected the statements from all parties involved, and presented them here to you for you to make up your own mind.
If for some reason you are actually interested in my opinion, here it is. James was not removed for his sexual identity. He was not maliciously targeted by the campaign for being transgender. He was asked to leave because of his recent and voluntary affiliation with protesters and for violating security policy. In no way does his removal from the venue reflect some sort of institutional bigotry or hatred for the LBGT community.
What DOES reflect on the Cruz Campaign’s opinions of the LBGT community are the Senator’s policy positions, his statements about the LBGT community, and the Theocratic tendencies of his supporters. Criticism of any candidate should be grounded in policy platforms and statements, not on a headline published by a newspaper.