December 15, 2006

Tom Tancredo A Hot Topic In Miami

Speech or no speech, Tom Tancredo has stirred the pot in Miami:
Even though Tom Tancredo didn't get to talk here Thursday, Miami can't stop talking about Tancredo.

The Colorado congressman was the main topic this morning on local Spanish-language talk radio. The Miami Herald played cancellation of Tancredo's planned speech here on its front page.
. . .
He's not here, because the restaurant feared protestors and a media onslaught would jeopardize patron and worker safety.
. . .
"It deeply hurt people here in Miami, they were very offended," Nicole Palilonis, 22, of Miami said about that comment. "Miami is like no other city in the U.S. People love this city. They love the diversity."

Reactions to Tancredo mirrored Miami's diversity. Some found him ignorant and repulsive. Others disagreed with him only in part. Some wholeheartedly endorsed Tancredo's view.

Nearly all criticizing him or praising him at the restaurant Thursday said they'd never heard of him before the Third World comment last month. Even now, they're not sure who he is. Some refer to him as senator. One calls him governor. A few believed he was coming to the restaurant to apologize.

Elkin Pavajeav, 30, immigrated to Miami from Columbia 20 years ago, and agrees with Tancredo in part. Miami, he said, can look like a Third World Country.

"There's a lot of poverty here. It's like Cuba. The rich live on one side, the poor live on the other," Pavajeav said. But Tancredo seems to imply, Pavajeav said, "that the only person who should be here is the Americans.

"America is the open to everyone. The dream can happen to me," said Pavajeav, a U.S. Marine who said he fought in Iraq. "I'm not defending Columbia. I'm defending this nation here."

Rotary Club member, Manny Klieaner, 82, a Miami resident of 30 years, had even harsher words about Miami than those from Tancredo.

"It's more like a toilet than a Third World country," Klieaner said. "They type of government we have. You have commissioners going to jail. You have commissioners running for reelection after they've been indicted."

Klieaner also complained about bilingual workers who speak Spanish in professional settings like hospitals and law offices, saying it's rude to English speakers.

"It's either total lack of manners or a high degree of stupidity," he said.

Others agreed with Tancredo.

A few of those who came for the Rotary Club meeting, which went on with a new speaker, expressed disgust at the threats and harassment that prompted cancellation of Tancredo's appearance.

"We really are a Third World Country if we can't allow people with divergent views to speak at a public forum," said Norman C. Kassoff, 76, Miami native and retired director of operations from the Metropolitan Dade County Medical Examiner Department. "It's like living in one of those tin horn dictatorships."

A veteran, Kassoff adds that people died in wars to give Tancredo the right to free speech.

Some used expletives to describe their reaction to Tancredo, saying he's full of a word that can't be printed here.

"He's just an outsider making an opinion, without knowing or understanding diversity," said expletive-wielding Bill Beckham, 50, a Miami native and insurance salesman, who came to the restaurant for today's Rotary Club function. It went on without Tancredo as the speaker.

Even with that opinion, Beckham said he wanted to hear Tancredo speak.

"I was disappointed that it was canceled," he said.

Rumors continued today that a bomb threat forced cancellation of Tancredo's speech, something Miami police won't verify. Rotary Club of Miami Richard Tonkinson said the threat "basically was that there would be damage done to the property if they were to proceed."

Other details of what happened Wednesday morning leading up to the cancellation emerged today.

At the Rotary Club office, callers opposed to the speech swamped the small staff working the phone, swearing and otherwise intimidating the workers, Tonkinson said. Some people barged into the office and became belligerent with staff, Tonkinson said, forcing them to close the office. He didn't know how many people barged in.
A typical tactic in shutting down speech you don't agree with--intimidate the hosts, the people working at the speaking venue, create a "chilling" effect (the real kind, where people genuinely feel threatened, not the fake liberal "chilling" that they constantly whine about when someone disagrees with them). When your ideas don't have much standing, you have to resort to physical threats.

The Miami Herald thinks Tancredo should reschedule and be allowed to speak.

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