From the other side of the line

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From the other side of the line

Sam Schlenner

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As excited crowds gathered for the Democratic rally featuring an appearance by Hillary Clinton on October 16, another crowd gathered outside the O’Rena, protesting the government.

They left their free speech zone, stood about 150 feet from the line of attendees and held up their signs. Then, Larry Mitchell walked over.

“He came over, he was very abrasive, very aggressive,” said David Rowe, one of the protesters.

Him and Mitchell talked politics. Then things escalated, Rowe said.

“He was starting to get very heated, and eventually he just all of a sudden exclaimed, ‘I’m from Texas. I have Ebola, and I’m here to give it to you.’ “

Rowe says Mitchell lunged at his throat and grabbed it like he was choking him. Rowe slapped his hand away.

Mitchell kept saying he had Ebola and licking his hand and “tried to slap another man in the face with his saliva-covered hand,” according to Rowe. Then he turned to Rowe again and tried to touch him with that hand, he said.

The police report says as Mitchell approached each man, “he licked his hand and then placed it on their throat.”

Mitchell questioned why the protesters had to stand in a free speech zone.

“Two points,” Rowe said. “One: We left the free speech zone, so we weren’t even in the free speech zone. Two: He wasn’t worried about free speech. He came over there to stifle speech.”

Rowe referenced what Mitchell said to Campus Reform:

“They’re easily scared and intimidated,” Mitchell told the website, “and when you have bullies like that, you bully them back, and that’s when they go away, and that’s what they did, they went away.”

“He came over to shut us up,” Rowe said.

Rowe filed a police report. He and the other student Mitchell confronted pressed basic assault charges against Mitchell.

“I’m not the kind of guy to press charges,” Rowe said. “I’ve never pressed charges on anybody in my entire life. But to me, I just think that’s ridiculous.”

“I can’t stand when people think they can bully people into shutting up, or trying to make us be quiet,” he continued. “To me, it’s a threat of force. I can’t stand that, so that’s the only reason why I’m pressing charges.”

Rowe said he felt threatened.

“I had to really restrain myself,” he said. “Because I knew he was just trying to get a reaction out of me.

Mitchell had said his actions were “street theater.”

“I know he says it was a joke,” Rowe said, “but I don’t know many people that joke around like that.”

A month later, Rowe is moving on. “Let bygones be bygones.”

Mitchell said he would confront the protesters again, but not the same way.

“That was childish,” Mitchell said. “I should be better than that.”

You can read Larry Mitchell’s side here.