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Presidential Candidate Alan Keyes Restrained, Barred from Debate

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Presidential candidate Alan Keyes was restrained with handcuffs and briefly taken into custody by Atlanta police when he attempted to enter WSB-TV studios, where the March 3 Republican primary debate was being taped. Although Keyes was not formally arrested, he was detained in a police squad car for approximately 20 minutes before being dropped off in a parking lot, where he used a pay phone to call supporters and was eventually picked up by Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell. Keyes is considering suing the WSB television officials for unlawfully barring him from the debate.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As we talk about the astronomical amounts of money that candidates have raised, that doesn’t include the soft money raised by the Democratic and Republican parties for the candidates. We’ll talk with the Center for Responsive Politics about just what this is. Then we’ll hear from Farai Chideya, who’s author of Don’t Believe the Hype, which challenges African American stereotypes. She is also now a commentator on CNN. And we’ll talk about — we’ll hear a provocative speech by an Asian American media activist on what it means to be an American. Finally, Loretta Ross will be joining us. She’s talking about redefining progressive politics in terms of human rights. She’ll also be talking about Georgia politics. She was at the Media and Democracy Congress that took place this weekend in San Francisco.

But before we go to all this, a little news update on what happened in the primary debate last night. Presidential candidate Alan Keyes was taken into custody briefly by police Sunday night in Atlanta when he attempted to enter a television studio where other contenders for the Republican presidential nomination were preparing to debate. The director of programming and creative services said the station was absolutely not pressing charges. Keyes apparently was not formally arrested, but he was taken into custody with his hands restrained behind his back, as he attempted to go in the main entrance of the WSB-TV studios about 20 minutes before the debate. “I have a right to speak,” Keyes shouted as police hustled him away in handcuffs.

State Republican Party Chair Rusty Paul said he had never been so embarrassed by the episode, which involved a candidate who has hit a chord with the anti-abortion faction in the party. “We begged WSB to open it to all the candidates,” he said.

Keyes showed up later in the evening for a live interview on a rival TV station. He said one officer told him he was under arrest, and he was driven around for about 20 minutes before being told he was free to go at a parking lot near a City Hall annex. He said he telephoned supporters from a nearby phone booth but given a ride by Mayor Bill Campbell, who had driven over to pick him up. Keyes said the mayor told him he hoped the incident would not give Atlanta a bad reputation.

Keyes said he would consider suing WSB-TV and try to get its license lifted. He said, “I honestly feel Atlanta and the police department have become pawns in a very vicious and ugly effort to manipulate and distort the American political process.” He added, “The people who own WSB apparently think they can own the American political process.”

Throughout the day, Keyes and a band of supporters had staged an extended fast in five pup tents set up on the studio’s front lawn. Keyes also was denied participation in a South Carolina debate last week that was limited to the top four finishers in the New Hampshire primary. He told reporters outside the building yesterday he was denied entry by the television — the local television officials. He said, “I was invited to participate in this debate, and the owners of the TV station denied me.” He said, “I’m qualified as a candidate in the state of Georgia. No media outlet has the right to choose who can debate. This is a travesty, a violation of the Constitution.”

And, of course, the Georgia primary joins a number of primaries tomorrow in the junior Tuesday primary. On Thursday, we go to New York for the primary there. And then, next Tuesday is the Super Tuesday primary, with primaries around the state.

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