Philip Germain heard Congressman Steve Knight was hosting a roundtable with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at College of the Canyons and wanted to hear what was said. He didn’t know that the simple act of asking to attend would result in being escorted off his own campus by security.
Germain, who spoke with SoCal Daily Media after posting about his experience online, was interested in wildfire policy in part because, as he put it, “Knight voted against tax help for victims last year.”
Germain is referring to the Republican tax bill, which initially eliminated a tax deduction for personal losses from wildfires. Knight supported that version, as well as a later version which kept the deduction.
Germain approached a Knight staff member at the door, where he was told the event was private and not open to the public. Germain said he knew the staff member because they had a business class together the previous year.
Germain said he knew to remain calm and cordial. “I’ve been campaign staff,” he said. “I made sure to be polite.”
He asked the Knight staffer if there were any events with Knight that were open to the public. The staff member told Germain he didn’t know, but that the office would be in touch if he left his contact information. Germain left his name, phone number, and email address.
Germain then left, took the elevator two floors down, and popped into a coffee shop on the first floor of the building.
Shortly after he arrived, he looked up and saw two campus security officers “come right up” to him. When Germain could not produce an ID (he says he left it in his car), the security officers said that he had to leave the building. Germain says he was accused of being a protester, of trespassing, and disturbing the peace of the event, which was happening two floors above him.
When asked by SoCal Daily if he was wearing anything indicating he was protesting, Germain said he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, jeans, and Adidas shoes. He wasn’t carrying any signs.
As the officers escorted Germain out of the public building, one explained he was “just doing his job,” according to Germain. The security officer told Germain that Knight’s staff had called campus security, gave Germain’s description, and asked that he be removed from the building.
Campus staff told the Signal that it was Secretary Perdue’s staff, not Knight’s, who called campus security.
In a statement to SoCal Daily, Knight’s office said, “Nobody on Congressman Knight’s staff asked for anybody to be removed from the venue.” They did not reply to a question of whether or not Knight’s staff played any role in Perdue’s staff contacting security.
Germain is politically active in the area, and helped create CA25 United for Progress (CA25 UP), a group focused on politically empowering young people. He does not hide his disagreement with Knight on policy issues, either.
Germain told SoCal Daily, “I don’t agree with Knight on anything, but still respect that he’s a member of Congress.”
But as a former campaign staffer, he says he holds himself to high standards when interacting with any campaign. “Respect the campaign staff” is something he tells everyone that comes to volunteer with CA25 UP.
Germain still wants answers as to why he was removed from the building. It’s particularly unsettling given it appears to be a trend among Republican candidates. At a recent event for Congressman Devin Nunes (R-Tulane), staff called the police on constituents who showed up outside Nunes’ district office to rally in support of health care programs.
Knight himself has a checkered past with constituents. In 2016, he threatened a protester, saying, “If you touch me again, I’ll drop your ass,” after the two shook hands and the protestor clapped Knight on the shoulder. No charges were filed.
Knight is one of the Democrat’s top targets this year, as the party seeks to regain control of the House of Representatives. Most election experts rate the race a toss-up, expecting it to be a tight race.