Damper for hundreds: Not near enough seats
By danny restivo
While former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden made speeches to a raucous crowd inside the Covelli Centre on Monday, the scene outside was less celebratory.
Hundreds of people hoping to see the two politicians speak were refused access after the venue had reached full capacity. A campaign source said 8,000 tickets were handed out, with the expectation that not all would attend. About 4,800 were in attendance.
A source told The Vindicator that the arena setup originally was planned to hold up to 6,000 people.
In an effort to limit empty seating, the campaign curtained off certain sections of the arena after President Barack Obama canceled his appearance Sunday, said Democratic sources. The result left a large group of onlookers waiting in the wet weather outside the arena’s northeast entrance.
“Its disingenuous at best, and egregious at the worst,” said Ronald G. Norwood. “It just really dampens my spirit.”
Norwood was among more than a hundred Democratic supporters who waited under a canvased tent after secret service officials locked the doors shortly after 3 p.m.
The event was scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. Clinton started his speech at 3:11 p.m.
The rejection, coupled with the rain and cold wind, created a contrasting atmosphere from the supporters inside the arena.
“It just makes me angry that they gave away more tickets than they can hold,” said Amelia Mitzel, a Kent State University graduate student who traveled to Youngstown with hopes of seeing Biden and Clinton.
Her sentiments were shared by others left out in the rain.
“Even if the event started earlier, I can’t realize why they won’t let people in,” said Missy McCormick, a Youngstown State University ceramics professor who was accompanied by her 10-month-old son, Ash McCormick-Adams.
“I anticipated a delay, so that’s why I got down here shortly before it started,” she said.
While McCormick and Norwood waited for entry, chants of “We want it in” began in the crowd. Some even began pounding on the glass doors in an effort to get security officials’ attention.
“It’s been my experience that when candidates start talking, they won’t let anyone in,” said David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party. He said the decision to stop admission is made by the Secret Service.
“Today was an overwhelming success as available seating for the Obama campaign’s grass-roots event was filled to capacity and nearly 5,000 enthusiastic supporters were energized by Vice President Joe Biden’s and former President Bill Clinton’s message that President Obama is moving the Valley forward. Due to overwhelming support for the President’s re-election, we regret that not everyone was able to attend,” said an Obama Campaign in Ohio spokesman.
Even though McCormick and Norwood were left out in the cold on Monday, both answered “no” when asked if they would vote for Romney now.
“If someone answers ‘Yes’ to that question, then we’re in trouble,” said McCormick.