A man shouts back at a heckler sitting next to AirTalk producer Lauren Osen at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
At last night’s acceptance speech, I had the serendipitous luck of sitting right next to an undercover heckler.
The KPCC crew got separated and I spent most of surprise speaker Clint Eastwood’s stage time waiting for the freight elevator to take me up to the press box where KPCC reporter Frank Stoltze was watching.
I never made it, so when I heard the applause for Mitt Romney, I ducked into the nearest section and found an empty aisle seat in the nosebleed section. I noticed most of the people around me texting — the young Latino guy in front of me: "Should have been a Ryan-Rubio ticket,” the older woman next to me: “I’m way up in the top section, where are you?”
About a quarter of the way through Romney’s acceptance speech, the woman next to me yelled out, “People, not profits!” I didn’t think much of it at first and neither did our neighbors, but as she continued yelling, everyone angrily turned around and began shouting back at her.
“Have some respect!” “Shut up!” “You should be ashamed of yourself!” Others were yelling “Security!”
She ignored them and continued to shout: “Democracy is not a corporation!”
I turned on my recorder and began snapping pictures as the angry crowd approached.
In their minds, this meant I must be colluding with the heckler, and their attention quickly turned on me, which was terrifying. I tried to explain that I was in no way connected to this woman I’d sat down next to only a few minutes ago.
A man soon approached and began very calmly explaining to the woman that she needed to stop yelling and that a sergeant-at-arms would soon be addressing her. The sergeant-at-arms arrived and at first he addressed me.
I explained the confusion and he asked to see her credentials. She had a seat assignment a few seats down, but someone else was sitting in it.
He explained that if she continued protesting, he would have to remove her. She said she wasn’t sure she understood.
He left. The people around us continued to yell things in our direction, but the woman didn’t respond to them.
The sergeant returned and asked her to come with him. I wanted to follow, but knew I’d be turned away, so I sat uncomfortably as my neighbors continued to snap photos of me in case I might begin yelling. Apparently I hadn’t been convincing.
Eventually the KPCC crew met back at our van where I told them my story and played the audio for everyone. Luckily, Larry said he would definitely have bailed me out of jail if it had gone awry.