‘Easy access’ to Biden allowed protester to rush stage at rally
An animal rights protester who rushed the stage while former Vice President Joe Biden was speaking at a rally on Super Tuesday said it wasn’t hard to do thanks to lax security.
“There was easy access to get to him, so we took the opportunity,” Ashley Froud, an activist with the anti-dairy group Direct Action Everywhere, told The Hill.
Froud and fellow protester Sarah Segal disrupted a televised rally in Los Angeles while Biden was speaking.
“There wasn’t tight security really, and the security just let us walk on in,” Froud said.
The VIP area was “pretty much accessible to everybody” and they made their way through a “little opening within the gate,” she added.
Segal, who also spoke with The Hill, said she was the first to get on stage, where she waved a sign and chanted, “Let dairy die.” While being escorted off stage, after getting within a couple feet of Biden, she continued chanting and said that created a diversion for Froud to jump on stage.
“That’s when Jill Biden pushed her away,” Segal said.
The moment was captured in a now viral photo showing Jill Biden, standing inches between her husband and Froud, pushing the protester away.
“My wife’s something else, isn’t she?” Joe Biden said in an interview that aired Thursday on NBC’s “Today.”
“I was worried about, for Jill,” he added. “God love her, she is incredible.”
Biden campaign aide Symone Sanders was also seen grabbing one of the protesters on stage.
“I broke a nail. #SuperTuesday,” Sanders tweeted as videos were shared of her fending off the protester.
Froud’s contact with Jill Biden has raised serious concerns about the security surrounding presidential candidates. TV commentators have described it as a frightening moment, noting that if the two protesters had wanted to hurt the former vice president, they likely could have.
Asked if he and other candidates should have Secret Service protection, Biden told “Today” host Savannah Guthrie it’s “something that has to be considered the more outrageous some of this becomes.”
It’s also not the first time protesters with Direction Action Everywhere have gotten close to a White House hopeful. Activists interrupted a rally in Nevada for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last month and an event Monday with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has since dropped out of the race.
The group has been protesting what it calls lawmakers’ lack of attention to the impact animal agriculture has on climate change.
Segal said she is focused on getting the “let dairy die” message out and isn’t targeting specific candidates.
Priya Sawhney, a protester who took the microphone at Sanders’s rally in Nevada, said “it’s fairly easy if you’re part of a crowd” to make it to the stage.
She said a Sanders volunteer had asked her to hold a sign behind the candidate, giving her a “direct sort of avenue to jump the barrier.”
Candidates identified as “major presidential and vice presidential candidates” by the secretary of Homeland Security are eligible for Secret Service protection. After reaching the established criteria and formally requesting protection, a group of bipartisan leaders in Congress and the Congressional Protection Advisory Committee submit a recommendation to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
DHS said that as of Wednesday they had not received a recommendation from Congress to provide Secret Service protection for any candidate, agency spokesperson Heather Swift told The Hill.
“We stand ready to execute if recommended,” she added.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) sent a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and members of the Candidate Protection Advisory Committee on Wednesday asking them to immediately convene to decide whether to provide protection for Biden and Sanders.
“Taking into consideration the remaining candidates’ large campaign operations, high polling averages, as well as physical threats to their safety — all factors contemplated by the Guidelines — I urge you to immediately initiate the consultation process to determine whether to provide USSS protection to certain major Democratic presidential candidates,” Thompson wrote.
Biden told Guthrie he feels it’s becoming increasingly necessary for the additional protection but said he doesn’t want to “pull the Trump routine” of throwing protesters out.
“I do think the idea of jumping on a stage is just not permissible,” he said. “The last thing we need is anybody hurt.”