Editorial: A glittery safety risk

  • Updated: February 2, 2012 - 6:32 PM

What if a confetti 'bombing' were mistaken for an attack?

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A gay rights activist, not pictured, throws a cup of glitter on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as he walks to the stage at the start of a campaign rally in Eagan Feb. 1, 2012.

Photo: Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

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The glitter bandits need to permanently holster their confetti ammo. It's just a matter of time before armed security mistakenly believes a gay-rights activist is pulling a weapon instead of getting ready to douse a politician with sparkly stuff. Someone is going to get hurt.

Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney was the latest high-profile politician to get "glitter-bombed." The former Massachusetts governor twice had confetti flung at him at close range on Wednesday during a Minnesota campaign stop. Romney managed to look festive instead of flustered, joking that his new sparkly hairdo was a good way to celebrate his recent Florida primary win.

Romney joins a long list of conservatives who've been glittered in Minnesota and elsewhere: among them, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota Republican U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen. A news release sent out Wednesday by Minnesota activists to trumpet the Romney glittering vowed that "more glitter actions are certain to follow.''

That's a mistake. Further glitterings, especially of presidential candidates, place everyone at campaign rallies at risk. Security officers must make instantaneous judgments about suspicious-looking people who get close to the candidates and their families. Whether it's highly trained Secret Service officers or local law enforcement, it's incredibly difficult in those split-seconds to distinguish someone drawing a weapon from someone pulling out a hidden bag of confetti.

It's not hard to imagine an anxious officer firing a gun, especially when there's often no weapons screening of early campaign crowds. That the activists were able to get so close to Romney and his family Wednesday demonstrates how vulnerable the candidates are and why security is edgy.

There's a tendency by some to dismiss the glitterings as a high-spirited twist on civil disobedience. But it is unacceptable to put others in harm's way to make a political point. There's also a bullying side to the glitterings that undermines the gay-rights cause.

Glitterings are intended to intimidate and publicly humiliate people -- a reason why activists post unflattering videos of politicians cringing as they're glittered. This may feel like a small measure of justice for those who've battled a lifetime of prejudice because of their sexual orientation, but that's not cause for more intimidating behavior.

Glittering's mean-spiritedness only reinforces those who oppose gay rights, and it does nothing to win converts from those still on the fence. Activists need to ditch the dust. This is a risky, losing strategy.

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