“I thought a fight was going to break out.”
First-year history of public policy major Kelsey Jones was one of the 1,200 or so students who were actually able to attend last night’s Hillary Clinton speech. Nearly twice that number was turned away at the door following the breakdown of order in the line and the rush for the entrance that ensued. Jones said although she waited in line for hours before the event, her entry was not assured.
“I was sitting here for three hours, and at around 6:10 p.m. people started cutting,” Jones said. “The crowd just scrunched in.”
Rumors and misinformation abounded as people waited. Some were told that an RSVP was necessary to gain entry into the event, while others heard that it was on a first-come, first-serve basis. Long after the doors had closed, hundreds milled around in the cold, hoping to hear Clinton’s address to the crowd outside, or possibly just catch the truncated repeat of her speech; these also turned out to be rumors.
One of the most common grievances concerned an early attempt by campaign organizers to limit entry to 900 people. To keep track, staff handed out white slips of paper, which attendees were told were tickets verifying their positions in line. However, the situation at the entrance soon dissolved into pandemonium. The orderly line – in which some attendees had waited since early afternoon – suddenly became an unruly mass of people pressed against the front gate, with police unable to maintain order.
Fourth-year sociology and black studies major Jillian Vatch said the situation seemed dangerous.
“We’re aware that [the event] was short notice, but students were trampled and CSOs and the cops didn’t do anything,” Vatch said. “And the white ticket business was a lot of bullshit. Obama’s got my vote.”
Third-year political science major Emily Anderson also said police at the entrance rejected the tickets and began simply admitting those closest to the front.
“I’ve been in line since 3 p.m., then I’m fearing for my life being pushed by all sorts of people,” Anderson said. “I feel I was warranted to get in. I was number 350 when they counted.”
However, University of California Police Dept. spokesman Matt Bowman said the Clinton campaign specifically expressed interest in a location that held the number of students in attendance.
“We have been told to ask people nicely to leave,” Bowman said. “The campaign requested a venue of this size and that’s why we chose this location.”
In another incident that contributed to the disorder prior to the event, students were paid a surprise underground visit from one of the Rec Cen’s animal residents. First-year political science major Kristen Hayford said a gopher popped out of its burrow amidst the commotion, furthering the frenzy.
“There was a gopher that emerged from its hole and everyone went crazy,” Hayford said.
Third-year geology major Chris Bowie said the venue was too small for a candidate who generated such widespread interest among the student body.
“This shit should have been in Storke Plaza,” Bowie said.
-David Ferry and Benjamin Gottlieb contributed to this article