WASHINGTON -- Police had to intervene at a Wednesday night campaign event for Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) after protesters unfurled a giant banner trashing West and attendees retaliated by throwing beer, ice cubes and even a salt shaker.
West was minutes into his speech outside of Pirate's Cove hotel in Port Salerno, Fla., when a handful of protesters came out onto a balcony above the event and began shouting, TCPalm reported Thursday. The protesters, who were with a group called Stand-Up Florida and who specifically rented out a hotel room to crash West's event, rolled out a banner that read, "Allen West is out of touch, Allen West is out of office."
From there, the event devolved into disarray. Andrew Mina, a field director for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign who was in attendance, yanked the banner down as West supporters booed and threw "water, ice cubes, beer and a couple of middle fingers" toward the balcony, the newspaper reported. Meanwhile, the protesters used a megaphone to shout criticisms of West's economic record and play an audio reel of controversial comments made by West in the past.
At one point, an elderly West supporter attempted to throw a glass salt shaker up at the protesters. But he "could only throw it a few feet before it shattered on the ground," according to TCPalm. Throughout the minutes-long exchange, West "quietly stood in the corner with his campaign team."
The police eventually showed up and escorted the protesters off as West's supporters chanted, "USA, USA." West wrapped up the event by leading a sing-along of "God Bless America."
West's campaign spokesman Tim Edson told The Huffington Post that the protesters are "mutants" who won't succeed in bringing down West.
"These people are the ultimate example of astroturf. Most of these individuals are paid to protest by groups like Stand-Up Florida, a group funded by SEIU," Edson said in a Thursday statement, referring to the Service Employees International Union. "These mutants show up to disrupt and attempt to silence Allen West at nearly every event. Allen West won't be silenced."
But Gayle Faath, a spokeswoman for Stand-Up Florida, said the group considers the event a success because they got West's attention.
"He was stunned and irritated," Faath said of West's reaction during the event. "Our main goal is to give '99 percent' voters a voice, and what they're concerned about is economic issues. We have made peaceful and reasonable attempts to meet with him ... [The protesters] have tried to get representation from their congressman, and they don't feel like they have it."
Faath clarified that, contrary to what TCPalm reported, protesters never threw beer or water back at West's supporters. If anything, she said, bottles and liquids were falling back down on the crowd after they had thrown them up in the air.
West's supporters "got pretty violent, quickly," Faath added. "But nobody was hurt."
West is locked in a tight race against Democrat Patrick Murphy for Florida's 18th District seat.