A constituent arrested at a Florida town hall event in Rep. Allen West’s district says she was singled out for political reasons, taken into custody under false pretenses, and maced in jail. And she has video to prove some, if not all, of it.
Nicole Sandler is a progressive radio show host*, and one of West’s constituents. At a town hall event Tuesday, West was screening questions — a departure from his usual practice of taking questions from audience members lined up at the mics. When he ducked a question about the House GOP plan to phase out Medicare and replace it with a private insurance system, Sandler shouted out a followup.
“I wanted to ask: How does privatizing Medicare make it more efficient? How does adding a profit motive to it make it more efficient? And I want to know the name and telephone number of an insurance company who will sell a policy to… someone who’s 75 years old, obese, with high blood pressure,” Sandler told TPM in an interview Thursday.
Video of the incident posted by a West supporter shows Sandler getting tossed from the event, but it doesn’t capture what she said to the congressman. Her own footage, however, makes it clear.
Watch the former:
And then the latter:
Ft. Lauderdale police escorted Sandler out in cuffs, and claim she shoved an officer — a claim she disputes and isn’t backed up by the video. She was taken first to city jail, and then to Broward County jail where she remained in custody for about 17 hours — 12 of which were after her boyfriend posted her bond — and, she says, was maced by a guard.
A spokesperson for the Broward County Sherrif’s department referred TPM back to the Ft. Lauderdale police department, where the Public Information Officer on duty was not immediately available for comment.
Sandler doesn’t blame West for the treatment she faced once arrested, and hasn’t contacted West’s office to alert him to incident. But she hopes to get a hold of video of the macing, and take legal action. She recalls the August 2009 health care town hall disruptions, where protesters were bussed in from out of district and allowed to shut the events down. “I want to see video of anybody in those town halls dragged out of those town halls in handcuffs, arrested, and then maced in custody.”
*I have been a guest on Sandler’s show a handful of times.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.