Our View | A Cabinet Member and a Meeting Crasher

By The Signal Editorial Board

So the secretary of agriculture was in town the other day.

Sonny Perdue, a member of President Trump’s cabinet who served as the “designated survivor” during the 2018 state of the union address, visited Santa Clarita to co-host a roundtable discussion about wildfire preparation with local elected officials and invited guests. Our valley’s congressman, Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, served as Perdue’s co-host.

It was a private meeting held in a reserved room in the University Center of College of the Canyons. Invited participants included three Santa Clarita City Council members as well as representatives from the L.A. and Ventura County fire departments.

And, of course, the media was invited. Let’s not be naive: There’s an election in November, and this kind of thing is a great opportunity for a candidate seeking re-election to score some “earned media,” as they say in the PR business. Bring a cabinet-level official to town, and local media will accept the invitation. It’s a no-brainer.

But, it was not open to the public.

Philip Germain, a COC student and activist who opposes Knight’s re-election bid, showed up at the meeting, uninvited.

Could he really expect to walk into a private meeting with a cabinet member? In today’s security environment?

Of course not. What was more likely was that he would either disrupt the meeting or get himself kicked out, or both. When those responsible for the guest list informed him he was not on it, and he would have to leave, he went to a campus coffee stand two floors down from the meeting.

However, COC officials say his attempt to crash the meeting caught the attention of Perdue’s staff who, understandably, were concerned about security. They didn’t know this guy and he was trying to get into the secretary’s private meeting, uninvited, so they called campus security.

A pair of security officers were dispatched to the University Center, acting on a report of “protesters” trying to crash the meeting — which, let’s be honest, sounds a little exaggerated. It was one college kid with aspirations of being a player on the “progressive” political scene.

The security guards approached the student at the coffee stand and asked him to leave the building. He argued that he was a student, but he didn’t have his student ID on him, so they repeated their request that he leave because he had no business in that building that day. COC officials say he told the security officers he had business elsewhere on campus, so they offered him a ride, but he declined.

He didn’t need a ride. He had all he needed by that point — enough to light an anti-Knight fire on social media, painting a picture of an innocent student kicked off a public college campus at the hands of Knight’s staff, even though, according to COC, that’s not where the security call originated and he wasn’t actually removed from campus — he was just told to leave that one building.

He played the victim on social media, starting a thread that’s drawn more than 1,000 comments. We ran a news story about the incident. After all, if we hear of a story about a COC student kicked out of a meeting involving a member of the president’s cabinet, principles of news gathering would dictate that we should look into it.

Were they justified to deny him admission to the meeting? Absolutely, yes.

Does the call for security look a little bit like an over-reaction? Sure. Sometimes a feather works better than an anvil.

But, here’s a suggestion: Take a trip to Washington, D.C. Pick a meeting that’s not open to the public — say, a cabinet meeting in the White House — and try to saunter in there without an invitation or proper credentials.

Let us know how that goes. 

This post was last modified on August 17, 2018, 2:20 pm

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