McCain's New Mexican Protesters

07/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- 30 minutes before John McCain was scheduled to go onstage at the Albuquerque Hotel for his Town Hall, a group of seven security guards and secret service men gathered around Chris Salas, 20.

Clutching a ticket for the event and wearing "National Abortion Rights Action League" T-shirt, Salas was escorted from the event. Leaving the hotel, Salas returned to the crowd of liberal protesters stationed outside.

"It was disappointing, but kind of empowering," Salas said of the experience. "We knew we had the right to be there. My friend got us tickets from the overflow pile, and all we wanted to do was ask Senator McCain about where he stood on pro-choice issues. So we went inside, and I guess they figured out we were too liberal for John McCain when the security cameras saw our shirts. So they kicked us out, told us we were trespassing and threatened us with arrest. We said we had tickets, but they said we falsified who we were when we got our tickets. All I did was give them my name, and I gave my real name, so I don't know what I could have falsified."

Salas said he wanted to ask the Senator about why his campaign literature seemed to boast about getting a 0.0 percent on the Planned Parenthood scorecard, and why he advocated abstinence-only education programs, programs that Salas believes only "increases the number of abortions because people are not being properly educated."

"I just wanted to go in there and learn more about his policies," he said. "I thought it was an open forum, but I guess it wasn't. That's OK, this is more my scene anyway."

The scene he was talking about -- stretching along the main drag leading to Historic Downtown Albuquerque -- was made up of about 50 sign holders, young and old, waving cardboard and plastic with slogans like "You like Bush's economy? Hire McCain," and chanting "Yes we can."

Buck Glanz, 25, the coordinator for the protest and staffer for the New Mexico Democratic Party, stood with a sign that read, "'Economics is something that I really never understood,' John McCain, December 2007."

"We're out here mostly to convey to the media, Republicans, and undecided voters that McCain is not right for New Mexico," Glanz said. "I don't think his economic policies will represent New Mexico in any way and I think his stance on the war will be detrimental to the country and to the young New Mexicans who are out there fighting and dying. Especially since they are not getting taken care of when they come back."

Glanz recognized that standing in the hot sun holding signs in protest of John McCain would not be the deciding factor in the upcoming election.

"There was a time in history, not so long ago, where protests serviced a more tangible function in society," he said as cars honked their support and bullhorns blared. "Whether it was obstruction or civil disobedience like a boycott, protest was part of the fabric of society. Nowadays its really more of a media event. John McCain's in town, the media reports that, and then they report on us, or show pictures of us standing out here holding signs. At least it evens the playing fields a little."

Still, Glanz said he was willing to do whatever it took to help get the right guy in office.

"More than anything I think that Obama thinks," Glanz said. "When I hear him speak, it's obvious to me that he is thinking hard about what he is saying. He interprets and is actually aware of what is going on, and can therefore make educated decisions. Whereas, more and more, I'm starting to feel that McCain is saying something, and he is saying something that he feels like needs to be said or that people want to hear. I want someone who will change their opinions occasionally, flip flop if you will, when evidence changes or circumstances dictate otherwise. I don't know if that is true about Obama, but that is what he is saying to me."

For some at the protest, however, this idea of flip-flopping was a major issue with protesting against.

"I'm out here against McCain because he's changed his positions, said Jesse Lifton, 22, a protester down from Pennsylvania working for the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. "He was a very liberal senator and now he is a very very very conservative presidential candidate. I don't know what to trust with him. He was pretty liberal about the environment, but now he wants to drill offshore. In addition to the ecological problem, this solution won't even lower any gas price. Any economist will tell you the same, when oil companies see they can get four dollars a gallon for it, why the hell would they lower the price?"

In one sentence, Lifton then summed up two of the most common problems many of these protesters (at least the younger ones) had with McCain:

"Not only has he shown that he doesn't understand Iraq and the Sunni-Shiite divide, he said, "but the man's is 72 and I don't feel like he'll work a 12-hour day."