Yesterday, Thursday April 21st, 2016, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and his entourage made a stop along their campaign trail at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in downtown Frederick, Maryland.
I arrived at about 7:30am and TV crews I spoke to reported being on scene as early as 4:30am who shot live cut-in’s intermittently through the morning. FOX, NBC, CBS, and the Frederick News Post, among many other news outlets arrived as 10:30am, Cruz’s scheduled appearance time, drew near.
I wasn’t quite sure why I, a liberal who is feeling very ambivalent in this election, decided to attend the rally and take some photos but it seemed like such an unlikely place for Cruz to visit that it felt like something worth checking out.
I noticed the first protestors appear around 9am. An older woman with a kind smile and a sign incited one tediously groomed Cruz campaign member to confront her angrily then turn and walk off when another protestor suggested that they could have a peaceful discussion about the woman’s sign.
This second protestor was “Ryan”, as he introduced himself to someone asking “And who are YOU to say these things?!” Ryan did not carry a sign but rather stood outside the Weinberg and warmly moderated discussions between sides with sincere handshakes and encouraging smiles. I am told that Ryan is a veteran whose perspective was changed by his time serving our country.
Once inside the Weinberg, I stood in the press box with the other photogs including FNP’s Bill Green whose photos I’ve always admired. I felt a bit outclassed despite my matching Cruz logo-emblazoned press badge, which allowed me free access around the venue. The other shooters were unshaven, road weathered pros with beat up camera bags to match. Their pro level Canon and Nikon DSLRs hung low at their sides with foot long lenses mounted like heavy artillery. I must have looked lost standing there with my perfectly clean, nearly new camera bag and carefully cared-for vintage 35mm cameras with short lenses which required me to get closer to the action.
While waiting for things to get started, I noticed men in black suits wearing ear plugs walking two people towards the exit. That is when someone I’d later come to know as 16 year old James Van Kuilenburg, shouted to the photographers “Hey! Are you guys press?! I’m transgender and they’re kicking me out! They won’t tell me the reason but I’m transgender and they’re kicking me out!”
The videographers and journalists were in a different section of the theatre, far enough away that they probably didn’t see what was going on. The rest of the photogs, as I recall just looked at one another unsure of what to do with their fast, heavily automated cameras. I swung my Leica up to my eye and began shooting. Just to be clear, in this image, James was yelling to the press over the din in the Weinberg. Prior to calling us, he was not being loud or aggressive, at least from the time I began to observe him. (EDITORS NOTE: It has come to my attention that the gentleman in the hat to the right in the image below is Greg, the TD at the Weinberg. He, in no way has anything to do with the removal and happened to be passing through this area at the time of incident. The exact identity of the gentleman holding James is yet unknown. I got the impression that he was with Cruz but Cruz denies this.)
Outside the Weinberg, James Van Kuilenburg told his story to the Frederick News Post:
I stayed inside to photograph Cruz who appeared on stage following speeches and a 2 minute propaganda video which were welcomed with standing enthusiasm by the obviously filtered audience.
After his speech, Cruz descended into the audience for personal greetings and photos with the audience who were of diverse look but predominantly white and sprinkled with many very small, pre-school and early school age children who clapped in excitement to mimic their parents. During his speech, Cruz cited the presence of strong youth support.
I worked my way against the rushing crowd towards the exit in order to see what had been developing outside the rally. As I was walking through the lobby, an unkept looking man extended a flyer to me while mumbling something about hosting a fight and that he would get me in the front if I’d like to come. I declined and found my friend and contact at the Weinberg. We discussed the incident with James. She pointed out that the heavy police presence were unable to do anything since this is considered a private gathering and there was no violence.
As I made my way outside, to the sound of a saxophone and talking, a father opened the door beside me and said to his young boy “Oh look, radical extremist protestors, isn’t that nice?!”
WHAG also interviewed James, however I did not observe any of the major news outlets interview, get footage of or photograph him at all during the event. This morning as I search James Van Kuilenburg on Google, I do not see any reports about him from major news outlets. Yet these teams were on site as early as 4:30 in the morning and had presence well after I’d left. Where are the liberal news media today?
Please read and share James’ post about this incident on Facebook.