UPDATE: Finally released after night in jail, 3 hours in solitary & getting MACED by guards - all hours AFTER $25 bond posted
Nicole will join me at 3:30pm PT on my KPFK show this afternoon...
By Brad Friedman on 4/27/2011, 8:19am PT  

[UPDATE: She's out. Finally. I just spoke to her. See fully story as she just told it to me in 4th UPDATE at the bottom of this article.]

My friend and colleague, talk radio host Nicole Sandler --- who does her own show, Radio or Not weekdays from 10p-Noon in Florida, and is the regular fill-in for the nationally syndicated Randi Rhodes Show --- was arrested at an insane town hall event held by "Tea Party" Republican Congressman Allen West (FL-22) in Fort Lauderdale last night.

Nicole is a good friend of mine (I was on Randi's show yesterday with her to discuss the Wisconsin Supreme Court Election recount, as she was filling in again for Randi) and this morning, SoFloRadio.com, which carries her show live at this hour, is running dead air. Her live U-Stream webcast channel is currently off-line as well.

I've been trying to reach her this morning, by text, phone, etc., but have had no luck so far. So, I am concerned and presume this means she was forced to spend the night in jail and may still be locked up. Insane.

Here is the video of the seemingly-psychotic West speaking at the event last night in Florida, as questions are hollered from the crowd, followed by video of Nicole, who is a constituent of West's, being arrested for reasons not made apparent in the video...

The catcalls heard from the crowd in the video concerning "ballots or bullets" refers to a speech given at a "Tea Party" campaign rally last July 4th by Joyce Kaufman, a far-right FL radio host whom the freshman West had originally named as his Chief of Staff after winning the election last November. During her speech, she threatened: "If ballots don't work, bullets will." (See video of her complete speech here.) West was eventually forced to choose a different Chief of Staff.

Reports from the event say that West refused to answer questions from the crowd, choosing instead to speak only to pre-screened written queries. As reported by the Palm Beach Post today:

The meeting marked the first time hecklers disrupted one of [West's] presentations, the first time an audience member got arrested (liberal radio talker and Air America alum Nicole Sandler) and the first time West passed up direct questions from the audience in favor of written ones.

West said the new format wasn’t an attempt to dodge tough questions.

What a country. I'll update when I can learn more...

* * *

UPDATE 8:55am PT: Here is another video from the event, this one by the Sun Sentinel, as posted with a more detailed Palm Beach Post article on the incident. This video shows the moment Nicole was escorted out of the auditorium, as she was being loudly booed and shouted down by West's supporters...

UPDATE 10:27am PT: John Amato at Crooks & Liars has an update:

I just spoke to a source close to the situation and $25.00 was already posted for her bail. She's not out yet. Since the town hall was on private property, the police were allowed to arrest her on a trumped up charge. She was pushed by the cop to get out of the building while she was trying to leave. He arrested her for daring to ask a question from the audience. If it had been in a public building there would have been no grounds to ask her to leave. West only answered pre-approved questions. What a cowardly move by Rep. Allen West's people.

C&L writer Karoli adds...

The "private property" Nicole was ejected from was Calvary Chapel's theater. Calvary Chapel is a tax-exempt organization. It seems to me that they should not be playing partisan politics, screening questions and supporting West's narrative without being accountable for that.

UPDATE 10:46am PT: Via GottaLaff's Political Carnival:

UPDATE: Per @jodmentum, “She was released an hour ago according to Broward Sheriff’s Office. Woman on phone says media was all over it.”

...Which means she was forced to spend the night in jail, despite having left the event when asked, but shouting at the cop when he continued to touch her. Is "Shouting at Cop Who Is Touching You" now an overnight-jailable offense in the state of Florida?

UPDATE 11:18am PT: FREE AT LAST. I just now spoke to Nicole. Finally. She's now out, and on her way home after a night in jail, three hours in solitary, and getting maced by prison guards. Incredible. I will have her live on my KPFK (Pacifica Radio here in Los Angeles) at 3:30pm PT this afternoon to talk about all of this. [Update: That interview can now be heard here.]

But here's what she just told me on the phone, as well as I could transcribe it...

I just got out of jail. Just had a Five Guys burger and fries, my first meal in the last 24 hours or so. First thing I did, I had CBS meet me as I was leaving. They'll be running a story later today. We're heading home now.

You'll love this. You know that old 'presumed innocent until proven guilty' thing? They don't do that down here in Broward County.

Now I understand what Bradley Manning was going through because I was put in solitary confinement. After bitching about it, I was maced. After being stuck in jail after about 3 hours, it was lunchtime. I said "can I please come out now, I'm really really sorry".

I had been in the women's area, there must have been 25 or 30 women in there. All but 4 of us were eventually called this morning to go before a magistrate.

Even though $25 bond was posted last night at 2am, and it's 8am I'm still not released. They said the bond takes about 6 to 8 hours process.

So then they're coming in to clean the cells. So they stuck all 4 of us in this one cell where they store the mattresses. A 12 by 7 feet. So they put the 4 of us in this cell with the 50 mattresses being stored, no air circulation, for a few minutes while they cleaned. And then they forgot about us.

After a while I see the women sent to the magistrate returned. We're still stuck in there for at least an hour. I said to the guard, "You forgot about us." He said "Oh, well, that happens."

"That happens?!," I said, "I think you owe us an apology. "You want an apology?" he said. "You see that cell up there? #1? You can have all the air you want. There's your apology." And he put me in there for like three hours. Solitary.

After being in there for hours with nothing to do, your mind plays tricks on you. In fact, while in there, they called my name, and I'm screaming "I'm in here! I'm in here!" They didn't let me out. And another hour went by.

Lunch was then served, and I asked "can I come out?" The guard said "NO!" I said, "Well, do I get to eat?" He said yeah, he handed me some food and then the door opened again, and I sat on the top step outside the cell, and he said "GET BACK IN THEL CELL!" ... And before I knew it, they were spraying me with mace. Not just once, but sprayed and sprayed to where I'm like screaming.

I can't believe this happened. I said, "I'm in here because I tried to ask my Congressman a question at a town hall."

Here's the thing, Brad, it wasn't a town hall meeting. He gave a presentation, and then he gave a speech. If I had known that, I wouldn't have gone. But he billed it as a town hall meeting, where there are usually questions back and forth. It's amazing.

Again, Nicole will be my exhausted, hopefully not-too-much-worse-for-the-wear (and mace) guest on KPFK at 3:30pm PT. [Update: That interview can now be heard here.]

Of course, this happens a lot. Remember all of those "Tea Party" folks who were arrested last summer, tossed in solitary and maced after asking questions and disrupting Democratic town hall events?

Right. Me neither.

UPDATE 2:04pm PT: BTW, looks like Nicole's treatment at hands of Broward County cops is par for their course. From our coverage of the arrest of Ellen Brodsky, a candidate for Broward County Supervisor of Elections in 2008, after she had the temerity to try and observe votes being counted after her election:

She was charged, at the time, with "disorderly conduct" and "trespassing," forced to spend the night in jail, and not released until nearly 6:00am the next morning, even though her son had posted the required $25 (twenty-five dollar) bail for her by 8:30pm on the evening of her arrest.
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