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Immigration Hecklers At Clinton Speech Say They Were Mishandled

A Clinton aide said the officers who escorted the group of protesters from the rally were not members of the Secret Service.

Posted on October 25, 2014, at 6:57 p.m. ET

Chris Keane / Reuters

A protester is escorted out of the building by an officer as Hillary Clinton speaks for U.S. Senator Kay Hagan during a campaign event in Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Three immigration protesters interrupted a speech here by Hillary Clinton on Saturday at a campaign rally for Sen. Kay Hagan's reelection.

The activists — working as members of a local affiliate of the national immigration group, United We Dream — said after the event that they were mishandled by an outfit of about five or six security officers. After escorting the three protesters outside, the officers asked for identification and "tried taking photos" of the activists, said Yash Mori, a fourth protester, who joined the group outside the hall.

In an interview, Mori said he and the three activists were "harassed."

A Clinton aide said the officers were not members of the Secret Service.

Hagan's spokesperson said the officers were not associated with their campaign.

It was not immediately clear whether the security officers who ushered Mori and the three hecklers from the rally were employed by the Charlotte convention center, where Hagan and Clinton spoke to a loud and spirited crowd of about 1,800 supporters.

Mori, a 19-year-old immigrant from India who is a U.S. citizen, organized the action. He said he works part-time as an immigration advocate but is also a freelance photographer. Mori wore press credentials clipped to his shirt at the Hagan-Clinton rally and videotaped the Clinton protest from a spot on the press risers.

He and the three protesters belong to a group called the Dream Organizing Network, a Charlotte-based affiliate of United We Dream.

The idea of the protest was to pressure Clinton to reveal whether she supports the executive actions on immigration that President Obama has said he will take after the election. Hagan, in a tight race for another term in this conservative-leaning state, has said Obama should not act unilaterally to ease deportations.

About seven minutes into Clinton's speech, one member of the activist group, standing center stage, toward the middle of the crowd, held up a sign and started yelling. The sign read, "Hillary Do You Stand With Our Immigrant Families?"

Clinton did not appear to immediately see the activist, Oliver Merino, a 25-year-old undocumented immigrant. The other two protesters were in the audience too, but were not as loud as Merino, who kept shouting for about five minutes.

During most of the protest, Merino's voice was drowned out by the crowd, which at one point erupted into an "equal pay" chant as Clinton made her remarks.

Finally, Clinton addressed the three hecklers. "I understand immigration is an important issue," she said. "I thank you for your advocacy."

When the protesters were escorted out by the security officers, they were asked for identification, according to Mori, who had left the press risers to join the group.

Then, Mori said, the officers "started taking pictures of them without giving a reason of why they would need a photo of someone who was obviously cooperating."

At one point, the loudest protester, Merino, "put his hand in front of the phone" of one of the officers," Mori said. The officer then "smacked [Merino's] hand away."

Eventually, the Dream Organizing Network group was taken outside.

This fall, as Clinton has hit the campaign trail and fundraising circuit for Democrats, immigration activists have organized small protests at a handful of her events to press her to take a public stance on Obama's promised executive actions.

Activists with United We Dream said last month that they expect the actions to continue.

On Friday in Charlotte, Mori was unhappy with Clinton's reply from the podium.

"Again and again, we've gotten the same response from Hillary," he said.

This article has been updated to include comment from a Hagan aide.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.