Organizers reject hundreds in line for president's visit
University affiliates and state residents clustered the sidewalks along College Avenue, Bartlett and Sicard Street last night waiting to watch former President Bill Clinton publicly endorse Gov. Jon S. Corzine for re-election.
But hundreds were turned away once the College Avenue Gym was at full capacity despite having tickets, causing frustration and lost hope for many.
Rutgers University Police Department Lt. Rowland L. Johnson said people were turned away once the fire marshal said enough people were inside.
"I don't really have the count for you, but I know that it is full to capacity," Johnson said.
The fire marshal said the gym capacity was 2,200, said Corzine's Press Secretary Elisabeth Smith.
Many students were angry and upset with the situation.
"This is really ridiculous. You can't hand out a number of tickets when that exceeds the fire marshal's limit. I was ticket number 1,700," said School of Arts and Science junior Jackie Alvarez. "They didn't even collect tickets when people were coming in. That's not fair to the Rutgers community when people are trying to go out and see politics in action and then you can't even do that."
Alvarez was turned away for admission right outside the gym after standing since 7 p.m. in a line that was already wrapped around the corner to Bartlett Street.
"Once I got up [to the gym], there were still people waiting at Olive Branch [at the corner of Bartlett Street and Sicard Street]," she said. "I was really looking forward to the event; I skipped Spanish class. This is an opportunity at my college, and I can't even capitalize on that when other people outside of Rutgers were allowed in before us."
School of Arts and Science sophomore Sam Scheiner said he came out to see Clinton speak but was disappointed he was not admitted.
"I thought they would limit the amount of tickets. There's a certain amount of people who can sit in the gym, so they should've limited it," Scheiner said. "It's frustrating. I could be doing something else."
Like many students, Sindhoori Nalla was waiting in line for more than an hour with her friends to see Clinton.
"First the line was moving quickly, so we thought we'd probably get in but then they cut it off," said Nalla, a School of Arts and Science first-year student. "I just don't understand why they distributed so many tickets if the capacity was 2,200. It's giving people false hope."
Although many were upset with not being admitted, Bergen County residents Regina Melnyk and Robert Sherbine were impressed with the turnout.
"I think it's very telling that there are way more people [trying to get in] then will fit in this building, but there are six people across the street protesting what's going on," Melnyk said. "I think that speaks volumes about the feeling in New Jersey politics right now."
Local residents expressed frustration with the way the rally was organized as well.
"You have tickets that you think guarantee you seats, and then you can't get in," said Middlesex County resident Mary Ghanem. "The line was wrapped around the corner."
Ghanem stood in line just after 7 p.m. on near Olive Branch like many others.
"Finding a parking space was one thing, then waiting in line to almost get to the door and they say ‘No more.' It took me half an hour to park," Ghanem said.
As a Corzine supporter, Ghanem said this may affect the way she votes in the gubernatorial election.
"Chris Christie all the way! This is in writing that you have seats to see [Corzine and Clinton] and then they don't even come through," Ghanem said.
After the doors were closed to those waiting in line, about 35 to 40 people stormed the left set of the gym doors, only to be immediately escorted out by RUPD officers, who then pushed everyone back to the sidewalk on College Avenue.
Sherbine said the turnout makes him more optimistic about state and national politics.
"In the bigger picture, I'm happy that this many people are participating in our democracy," he said. "It gives me hope that if it's happening here, it's happening in Iran. I think more and more people are becoming involved [and] paying attention."