Secret Service View Teddy Mather As Protestor, Not Presidential Material

Laine Hendricks, NPCA field representative, poses with Teddy Mather shortly after the Secret Service prevented Teddy from attending a presidential forum. NPCA Photo

By Laine Hendricks, National Parks Conservation Association

In an effort to encourage the presidential candidates to pay attention to national park issues, the National Parks Conservation Association has launched its own candidate, Teddy Mather, a bear named for national parks champion President Teddy Roosevelt, and Stephen Mather, first director of the National Park Service.

Clearly, the campaign is tongue-in-cheek, but the issues are real, so over the next year, Teddy’s campaign managers (NPCA staff) plan to take the candidate to national parks and presidential campaign events. And we hope to blog about some of our experiences along the campaign trail.

To start, this is the story of Teddy Mather’s first campaign stop, which almost landed his handlers in jail, but also landed our candidate his first national media interview!

After receiving an invitation from the League of Conservation Voters to attend its Global Warming Forum, five members of Teddy’s campaign (me, three volunteers, and an intern) packed up the bear suit and drove four hours from NPCA’s office in Fresno to Los Angeles to try and catch the attention of the participating candidates: Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John Edwards, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

The event was saturated with security—and more than 500 people. Guards in the parking lot were shouting, “No cameras, no bags, no purses… don’t think about bringing ANYTHING inside.”

We put an intern in the Teddy suit, and decided to wear our 2016 National Park Centennial pins, and carry in only a few global warming fact sheets and a sheet of “teddy stickers”—knowing that if we had to, we could “recycle” them at a moment’s notice. The plan was for some staff to go inside the event to try and speak with the presidential candidates or their staff about park issues, and have Teddy outside, talking to the gathered crowd about the national parks.

But once we made it to the front, we could see about a dozen guards: a combination of Secret Service and building security guards. Simultaneously, their radios started buzzing, “Bear in front! Bear in front! We have a bear in front!”

We were immediately approached by a Secret Service agent and told to leave. “There’s no protesting allowed here,” he said.

“We’re not protesting anything,” I replied.

“No, you are protesting if you’re wearing propaganda like that,” the agent said, pointing to my “2016” button and an “Elect Teddy” sticker worn by one of our volunteers.

“We’re here in support of the conference and to share a message about global warming,” I said.

“If you’re here with a bear, then you’re protesting and if you don’t leave immediately, you will be ARRESTED,” the Secret Service agent said forcibly.

The agent followed us back to our car, where we unloaded the items of “propaganda,” carefully packed the bear into the trunk, and returned to event. All eyes were on me as we walked past the security guards to the Will Call ticket table to get our tickets. But as I was entering the event, I heard “WAIT!” hollered behind me. I turned around to see the same Secret Service agent who had threatened me with arrest just minutes earlier.

“I just want to let you know that we’re going to let you in, but we’re watching you. We know who you are. We know you’re with the bear. Any funny stuff and you’re going to be arrested. This is federal property and it won’t be pretty,” he said.

Once inside the Global Warming Forum, we split up to find seats. Each of us quickly had our own Secret Service agent stationed nearby. Ironically, during Sen. Clinton’s talk a man at the event, dressed in a t-shirt emblazoned with political messages (and to think the Secret Service had a problem with NPCA’s green 2016 buttons!), started screaming and creating a scene. It took Secret Service TWO MINUTES to react (we counted!) and silence the man; all the while, agents kept watch on NPCA’s staff.

Despite having received briefing papers from NPCA about global warming and other park issues a few months ago, and extensive media coverage of global warming’s effect on parks, none of the candidates ever muttered “national parks.” And needless to say, we didn’t get very close to the candidates at the post-event reception. So we left, and decided to stroll the Santa Monica pier to meet the voters.

A FOX News producer fortuitously overhead us talking about our campaign for the national parks. After learning that Teddy was a presidential candidate, producer and blogger Serafin Daniel Gomez was shocked that the bear hadn’t participated in the forum. Serafin immediately put his camera on Teddy and his campaign staff, and we talked about the needs of the national parks and the opportunity, created by the parks’ upcoming centennial in 2016, for the next administration to help restore these beloved places.

And that’s the story of how Teddy landed his first national media interview.

We recognize that national parks are not at the top of our presidential candidates’ lists, but we also know that whoever is elected to the White House next fall could have a profound effect on the future of our nation’s significant lands and landmarks. So Teddy will keep at it—visiting parks and presidential candidate events and making every effort to ensure national parks are a national priority.


It' sad to think that a person in a bear suit representing OUR national parks is escorted out of a political event. what has this world come to? if one of the current candidates had only 1% of the insight of Teddy Roosevelt i would vote for that person. but for now the bear is the best thing going. give em hell teddy you've got my vote.

What's sadder still is that protesters of all kinds are treated like this. This is a typical, if fairly mild version, of what I have experienced hundreds of times. I'm not that alarmed that a message about the parks and the environment is considered protest (in some sense it is); what alarms me more is that anyone deemed to be saying something different or outside the norm is treated this way and seen as a threat. This is an extremely common story for those of us who have tried, and I wish people would open their eyes to it. Right now, people are talking about Obama or Hillary; Rudy or Huckabee, but if you have anything at all to say about the matter or about something else that matters, you will be kept far from any event that matters. And, people are ho hum about it, ignore it because it doesn't affect them, and then vote.

So NPCA, a very traditional organization, is now on the outside looking in, and is a little taken aback that they are seen this way. I have to say to them, "Welcome to the club. We're not as strange, those of us on the outside looking in, as we might seem. So, come find a free speech pen and fit right in; the space is a little tight, no one can hear us, but at least they haven't thrown too many of us in jail, yet. (well except him and her and her and him, but they should be out soon)."

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

I just want to let you know that we’re going to let you in, but we’re watching you. We know who you are. We know you’re with the bear. Any funny stuff and you’re going to be arrested. This is federal property and it won’t be pretty

First off, in legal circles this type of vocal intimidation is otherwise known as assault, which by definition is paraphrased as "any attempt, whether by act, speech or writing in intended to convey physical or emotional damage upon those parties at whom the act is directed". Personally, I'd sue the bastard who made those comments, if for no other reason, to draw attention to the issue.

Second, the term "presidental material" disturbs me to no end. Just what the hell is "presidential material"? I've submitted a written request to various organizations for a "legal" definition of that term. I'm estimating my odds of a reply at 20:1. I've also spoken with a couple of professors of political science on the issue, and they cannot justify the term in any political sense either. And they estimate my chances of a meaningful reply closer to 50:1.

Finally, I personally see little that would qualify under ANY definition of that term as viable options in recent years. Hillary? Obama? Mitt? Bill? W? Gerry? Jimmy? Tricky Dick? LBJ? JFK? What a bunch of crap we've had to endure in the past 40-50 years. The bear has at LEAST as much credibility and insight as anything in that group. And Jim is absolutely dead on target. The people are responsible for the current state of affairs by their practice of ignore, then vote. That is the exact reason the system is the cesspool that is has become. You can blame those in charge, but the masses are the ones who placed them in positions of alleged authority, and I use the term authority loosely. Until we, the people, ALL the people, take back control of what was designed and intended to be ours, and regain the power of the vote, we're stuck with this "quality" of "presidential material".

Right on Lone Hiker! Incidentally, did you watch that piece by ABC-TV news last night (12/12/07) on the big Christmas dinner bash that the lobbyist put on for the Washington bureaucrats? Talk about special interests, big money and corporate pimping. I'm sure all the jet boat and snowmobile companies were well represented. Yap, Rome lives well in DC! Oink! OinK! here piggy, piggy!

Teddy Mather should be grateful to the Secret Service.

Now he's actually interesting. At least for 15 minutes.

This is a funny story. I love it. But some of you are taking this WAY too seriously.

Lone Hiker, what the agent said to the bear isn't intimidation. It's honesty. Besides, this bear WANTS to be watched. That's why he's wearing a bear suit and carrying signs. And yeah, if the bear did something untoward to the candidates, he'd go down!

The agents were just doing their jobs. They let the bear in for heaven's sake.

Trust me, a Secret Service Agent's cynicism about politicians pales anything you guys can come up with.
I say we should give them a break. The government isn't going to give them much of one over the next year.

One of us missed something hh-

The caption on the photo at the head of the piece states that the picture was taken after the Secret Service prevented Teddy from attending a presidential forum, so as I'm understanding things, Teddy never did set paws into the debate arena. Additionally, the author states that they "carefully packed the bear into the trunk, and returned to event", again making reference to the fact that Lil' Teddy didn't gain entry. Are you interpreting something different in all of this?

I whole-heartedly agree that, as you state,"if the bear did something untoward to the candidates, he'd go down". Nothing less would be either expected or appropriate. But somehow I doubt that Teddy was packin'. And from what I gather, if someone was to state to you that, "unless you do so and so, we're taking you down and it won't be pretty, you might be a bit put off by the tone of the comment. Federal property notwithstanding, for well behaved "protesters" to be verbally threatened and/or abused (and there lies a fine line between the two) is simply not acceptable under ANY method of crowd control protocol.

Long live the Bear!

My apologies Lone Hiker,

I misread, the intern got in. Still, being "off put" by a comment doesn't make it law suit worthy.

The bear got bluff charged. He'll get over it.

As long as so-called "conservationists" keep talking the "global warming" hoax, NO ONE is going to take them seriously. They will just been seen as a fringe group of whackos. PARK ISSUES are what they (NPCA) should be focused on. Better campgrounds, better roads, repaired infrastructure, better interp displays.
We homo sapiens did not create global warming and there is nothing we can do to change it. State of fear is not the answer. How many of you remember scientists were warning us in the 70's about "global cooling" and the coming ice age?? The earth has been warming for a long time with an interval from 1940-1970s that we were cooling. We could begin cooling again in the next few one knows or really understands the totality of global climate and it's interaction with the sun.

Welcome back Gerald, you never did say what your so called Ph.D. was in. Look's like NASA recent photo's and weather research reports on global warming doesn't reflect the work done by a bunch of whackos (expert climatologist). Pretty conclusive evidence that global warming is mostly man induced. Now, you wouldn't be working for the coal industry would you? Most park naturalist will tell you that they do agree with most of the NASA reports on global warming. They have seen the environmental changes coming for long time, especially in the upper elevations of our National Parks.

So does the Secret Service (SS) become the arbiter of what's whacko speech? Is that relevant to the free speech issue?

As to the comment about the SS making a tactical error and giving Teddy Mather some press, that perhaps is true. I can't say I'm a fan at all of the "Teddy Mather" concept; (me wonders what Gifford Pinchot would have thought of this one!) So, that it got some press is almost regrettable. Most people who find themselves abused by the SS this way don't get any type of press at all; they don't have the power of NPCA behind them. And, those who have gotten press still haven't gotten very far.

I remember seeing one event, where dozens of people were arrested about 600 yards from the White House (that's as close as authorities - in this case, the Park Service) would allow for a commemoration of dead U.S. troops and Iraqis. When the line was crossed in an area so far from the White House, I talked with an immigrant from Syria, who was dismayed. He said it was the first time since he had left Syria where he felt like things had actually become worse than the country he had left. I urged him to get involved in the Chicago area, where he lived. I don't know if he did, and I know that experiences like the ones I have had and the one he witnessed are the exception to the rule (the most we have seen is the sensational "Don't taze me, bro!" episode, but this is a common thing that have happened to people not being obnoxious at a John Kerry event).

Rather than focusing on the absurdity of this happening to NPCA, who were invited and didn't see themselves as protesting, I hope we can show solidarity with all people, from whack jobs to those who are quite serious, who want to speak out (and who aren't openly stopping others from speaking out - as in the case of the KKK and the Nazis). Unfortunately, that often doesn't happen, as the defense often offered by more mainstream groups is that they were persecuted despite being mainstream. That's too bad.

In DC, these events - because they often happen in parks - usually fall on the National Park Service (though sometimes, it's the SS) to police. I don't think that irony should be lost on NPCA. If it complains about what the SS has done to it at a particular campaign event, it should push just as hard that the service it advocates for is often guilty of the same thing on public lands throughout this country (while ironically, in places like Harper's Ferry, giving material support to Klan members rallying, offering protection and even rides and escorts to their racist, hateful, and intimidating event).

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

If I may steal these immortal words from one of our country's supposedly noble "presidential material".......
Let me make one thing perfectly clear.

Whether or not Teddy the Bear was due his 15 minutes as made possible my Fox News is not the issue that I was trying to address. Enabling the issues to be elucidated upon due to costume and circumstance instead of having them judged on there relative merit is one of the trademarks of Fox journalism. I'm sure if they could, they'd put a naked girl on the cover of every story, as well as on their nightly newscast, ensuring the "big splash" to the crowd to which they pander. Rather, it is the circus surrounding the specific circumstances of this particular "bear" event, directedly targeting the political subterfuge pertaining to the 1st Amendment rights of ALL Americans, not just those deemed "presidential material" that irks me. So, you don't like protesters? Get the hell out of politics, or have the stones to admit that we most certainly do NOT live in a "democratic" society. This was by no means a civil distrubance, a riotous act, a nuclear attack, or any such attempt by the NPCA to "steal the spotlight" and deny the candidates the opportunity to do whatever it is they were attempting to do. So I guess what our ever-lovin' government is saying by these actions is that it is illegal to pass out literature and wear campaign buttons at a political rally, debate, side-show or whatever UNLESS you have the proper literature, buttons, bumber stickers, etc. that are APPROVED IN ADVANCE by the candidates participating in the freak show AND by your friendly SS guards.

Didn't we just live through this exact circumstance not 70 years ago on the European continent?
Democracy my @$$. PLEASE, lose the RED and the BLUE. VOTE THE WHITE, VOTE INDEPENDENT.

Independent thought + Independent mind = A BETTER AMERICA.
(That's my new campaign slogan.....whacha think?)