Apparently one is no longer allowed to express one's dissenting opinion in our bright, shining example of freedom here in the USA. Freedom must be "on the march", because it sure as hell is marching right the fuck outa here!--Pete
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, the Republican from Pennsylvania, espouses many controversial views -- that women shouldn't work outside the home, that legalizing gay marriage would lead to legalizing polygamy and bestiality, that government should discourage birth control.
He's even written a book, "It Takes a Family," to spread his viewpoint.
Understandably, people who disagree would like to tell him so. But, as several teenagers and some of their parents found out last week, trying to do that in Delaware could land you in jail. Santorum appeared at the Barnes & Noble bookstore adjacent to Concord Mall on U.S. 202 Wednesday night for what was billed as a book signing and discussion. College students Stacey Galperin and Miriam Rocek of Newark decided to attend to hear what he had to say.
"I knew about him from his promotion of the federal marriage amendment," said Rocek, 19. "I thought I would go and just talk to him during the book signing, tell him I disagreed with a lot of his policies, just engage him in dialogue."
Hannah Shaffer, an 18-year-old from Glen Mills, Pa., who graduated in June from Garnet Valley High School, and several friends had the same idea.
"When I got there about 6 o'clock, a group of young people had congregated," Shaffer said. The handful of Garnet Valley students and the girls from Newark started talking about the event, and someone joked about having Santorum sign a book by a gay author.
That drew the attention of someone on Santorum's advance team.
According to Shaffer, the woman "called them shameful and said she was disgusted by the reasons they were there, that they should be there to support [Santorum]."
"Rick Santorum's security team felt they were going to be a security threat and asked them to leave," said Amanda Winnington, the community relations manager for the Barnes & Noble store.
The security, however, wasn't provided by a private guard, but by off-duty Delaware State Police Sgt. Michael DiJiacomo, who was hired for the occasion through a private security service. No official report of the incident was filed because no arrests were made, but state police spokesman Lt. Joe Aviola said, "As I understand it, they actually were being disorderly within the store. Someone overheard them saying they were going to cause a disruption."
That's not quite the version the teens related. "I heard [DiJiacomo] ask the woman, 'Do you want me to get rid of them,?' " Galperin said. "I went to tell the kids the cop was going to kick them out, and he was very pushy. He came up to us and said, 'If you don't leave you'll be arrested, and if you can't post bail you'll be put in prison.' He said it was private property and we would be arrested for trespassing."
When the girls protested that they hadn't done anything, DiJiacomo told them they were under arrest. After taking them from the store, Galperin said, "He told Miriam to put her hands on the car and kept telling us, 'You're going to embarrass your family, you won't get into college with this on your record.' "
After checking their identification, though, DiJiacomo let the two college students leave.
The younger teens, meanwhile, had gone to Concord Mall to call their parents to pick them up. When Hannah's mother, Heidi Shaffer, arrived, DiJiacomo had told the teens they were banned indefinitely not only from the bookstore but the entire mall next door.
"He told me this wasn't the time or place for these kids to protest," Heidi Shaffer said. "He [also] told me if any of the children was arrested I would have to appear in court, and that I could not take any of the kids into the store unless I wanted to be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. I said I wanted to talk to the Barnes & Noble management, and he said it's not up to the management, that Barnes & Noble had no authority.
"What he told me was, 'They don't want you there,' that it was all under the direction of Santorum. Maybe he was making it up, because I called Santorum's people and they've denied it to me, but I got the impression they didn't want anyone there who didn't agree with him."
Barnes & Noble's Winnington confirmed that only customers who had a receipt for Santorum's book were allowed near him.
Officials of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Greenville, which published Santorum's book, did not return calls for comment.
"These are all honor students," Heidi Shaffer said. "It was unconscionable. I don't know when they passed a law in Delaware that said you can't have a cup of coffee and discuss your opposition to a book."
They haven't yet, but give them time.
Al Mascitti's weblog, First Statements, appears at www.delawareonline.com. Contact him at 324-2866 or firstname.lastname@example.org.