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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
John Russell dislikes Florida's current Democratic Party leaders. And lucky for him, he's not a fan of Mickey Mouse, either.
After a confrontation with party officials Saturday during the state convention in Orlando, the former Democratic nominee in the 5th Congressional District was banned from ever returning to any Disney-owned properties.
"I don't care," Russell of Dade City, said Monday about his punishment. "I hate Disney. I hate getting around there. The whole experience is unpleasant for me."
"John, this is private property. You can't be here," Kates says on the video.
Russell, of course, denies the entire story. He said he was given permission to put out signs. And he said he was invited as a delegate and planned to pay the registration fee as a guest if not.
"I wasn't looking for a table when I went in there," he said. "It was my intention to buy a $50 pass."
Russell's main issue is what happened before his friend Mark A. Adams turned on the camera. He said Kates pushed him hard enough to provoke a fight. The footage does show Kates approaching Adams and trying to push away the camera.
The video incident is part annoying, part amusing.
The former is the feeling among Democratic Party officials who earlier this month banned Russell from attending a major fundraiser for Pasco County Democrats.
As state party spokesman Mark Bubriski explains: "Yeah, he is not allowed at the events because he's proven to be a disturbance. He worries us when we have to deal with him." Bubriski goes as far as to say Russell is a "physical threat to the safety of others."
Those who may find the video amusing: hundreds of political junkies who watched and commented on the St. Petersburg Times political blog the Buzz after a link was posted over the weekend.
In the video - titled "Fascism in Fantasyland" by Adams - Russell gets belligerent as he defends his right to attend the party's annual convention. "I was the nominee. I was the nominee," Russell shouts repeatedly as he is escorted outside by Democratic Party staff members and Disney security officers, who later issued him the trespassing warning with the lifelong ban.
Unconventional behavior isn't new for Russell, who received nearly 109,000 votes in his loss to Republican Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite in the 2006 general election. He readily touts his "Dateline-style" videos that he claims show party leaders like Bubriski and Chairwoman Karen Thurman lying about their activities.
Of course, for Russell and Adams, this whole episode is serious business.
In between the raw, unedited footage, the screen reads at one point: "This is what happens when you question a totalitarian regime."
"I'm not crazy. I'm just crazy about my country, and that's why I ask questions," Russell said.
Edwards' campaign, which was not aware of the incident until afterward, declined to comment on the record about Russell's actions.