A College of the Canyons student and political activist was asked to leave a campus building Wednesday after trying to attend a private wildfire roundtable meeting hosted by Rep. Steve Knight and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
Philip Germain wrote of the incident, which happened at the college’s University Center, on social media Wednesday. Germain, an activist with the political organization 25Up, which is campaigning against Knight in the November election, said Knight’s staff barred him from attending the private event and called campus security.
COC officials said it was actually Perdue’s staff that called security, not Knight’s.
“I saw some information about the event and wanted to attend,” Germain wrote on his Facebook post. “I especially wanted to hear their thoughts on wildfire policy, which was a main topic, as it directly affects many of us here and Knight voted against tax help for victims.”
Germain said that, upon his arrival at the invitation-only event, staff members he believed to be from Knight’s office told him he could not attend. Germain said he then went to the campus coffee shop two levels below the event.
“I was extremely respectful and left after leaving my information (with the staff),” he said in an interview. “Then they came after me in the coffee shop and said I had to go.”
Two campus security officers approached Germain and asked him to leave, he said.
“After mentioning that I am a transferring student (still using many campus facilities to help), they told me to leave,” he wrote on Facebook. “One officer added that I was trespassing and disturbing the peace of the event (two floors down from it in a coffee shop) and that if I didn’t comply the Sheriff’s Department would get involved.”
College of the Canyons spokesman Eric Harnish confirmed the incident happened, but said the call for security and the subsequent encounter between Germain and security officers didn’t happen exactly the way Germain portrayed it.
“Campus safety received a call about protesters trying to enter the meeting,” he said. “So they went to respond to that. Mr. Germain said he was a student, but he didn’t have his student ID with him, so because he didn’t have any business in the building, he was asked to leave the building.”
Germain confirmed his student ID card was in his car and he was not able to show it to the security officers. He said he gave them his ID number and offered to open his online student account to confirm his attendance, but the officers declined and reiterated their request that he leave.
Germain said he believed he was being ordered to leave campus, but Harnish said he was only asked to leave the building where the private meeting was being held.
Harnish added that, when Germain told the officers he had other business on campus, including a need to obtain his transcripts, the officers noted that the building he needed to visit was on the opposite side of campus, so they offered to give him a ride there — and he declined.
Knight’s staff also said the call did not come from them.
“Congressman Knight and Secretary Perdue had a very productive meeting with community leaders and invited guests to discuss fire resiliency and preparedness,” said Knight spokesman Chris Jusuf. “Nobody on Congressman Knight’s staff asked for anybody to be removed from the venue.”
Germain said he would write a formal complaint to the college.
“I’ll be pushing for a statement from the college,” he said in an interview. “I’m going to demand one, and I want to hear from Chancellor Dianne Van Hook. It’s extremely concerning that a public official would target somebody and have them removed from an area. To throw a student off campus is pretty unbecoming of a public official and seriously disturbs me. Whether that’s Knight or Perdue, it’s still concerning. I only asked a question, and I left.”
Coverage of the roundtable discussion can be found here.