-By Adele M. Stan
November 4, 2011- Time was when David Koch could bring his Americans for Prosperity Foundation convention to our nation's capital, and conventioneers could feel pretty secure in the notion that Washington, D.C., was theirs for the taking. No longer.
The triumphant glow of hagiography that usually marks the convention's annual Ronald Reagan tribute dinner Friday night gave way to the heat of confrontation with the Occupy D.C. movement. Apparently, the AFP Foundation was prepared for shenanigans, as there seemed to be a readily available cadre of Metropolitan Police throughout the Walter E. Washington Convention Center where the event took place, a sprawling complex of glass and stone that takes up a full city block.
As the dinner began, one group of demonstrators convened outdoors for a peaceful film festival featuring a series of short documentaries about the Koch brothers, the billionaire executives of Koch Industries, the conglomerate founded by their father, Fred, who was also a founding member of the John Birch Society. (AlterNet's Rania Khalek has a report on that event here.)
But others, from the Occupy D.C. and Occupy K Street movements, were more aggressive, shutting down streets around the convention center, and holding their ground at intersections with the forbearance of the police.
But not all the Occupiers were out in the cold. Hijinks began inside the Convention Center as the Tea Partiers picked at their salads during a speech by Andrew Napolitano, the retired
federal Superior Court (N.J.) judge who is now a talker on Fox News Channel. A young white man began shouting — I couldn't quite hear what he said — and was poised to unfurl a banner when he was grabbed by police, escorted from the hall.
"God bless the First Amendment," Napolitano said, as the crowd jeered the young man as he was pulled from the hall. "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
I followed the cops and their quarry out of the hall, watching as the officers pressed the protester to the floor just outside the entrance to the ballroom.
As police went through his pockets, he kept repeating, "I did not consent to this search. I am not resisting. But I did not consent to this search." He said his phone and his wallet were the only things he cared about being taken from him. After the cops were satisfied that he had nothing worth confiscating on his person, the wallet and phone and all his effects were returned to him. When a cop handed back his conference pass, an AFPF staff person said, "Officer, you need to take his credentials away from him." The officer obliged, and handed the pass to the staffer. Then he and another cop took the protester by the arms and down an escalator. I tailed after them and got his name: Ricky Lehner, from Florida.