Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 | 12:11 p.m.
The headlines didn’t look good for Rep. Joe Heck earlier this week.
Nevadans who were out of work due to the government shutdown that ended Thursday traveled to the Republican congressman’s office in Henderson to exercise their constitutional right to petition the government. And then, as the story goes on Twitter and blogs, Heck called the police on them, and his staff slammed the door on constituents.
A story like that might make people angry or cause them to think less of the congressman. If it were true, that is.
“Congressman Heck would never condone a member of staff calling the police if these people were peacefully protesting, which they certainly were,” said Greg Lemon, spokesman for Heck.
But the police did in fact arrive at the gathering. That is not in dispute.
So who called the police on the group of 60 or so people standing outside the office?
It was the property management company that controls the building on the corner of Eastern Avenue and Pebble Road that houses Heck’s office.
“They’re allowed to protest on the public right of way but anything in the parking lot, they ask them to leave,” said Devon Sansone with Sansone Real Estate Services, the group that manages the property. “Most people don’t leave, so Metro has to respond.”
Heck’s staff said that they’re tenants in a private office park, so they have to comply with the policies of the property managers.
“It’s a policy for the whole property not to disturb any of the other tenants in the offices,” Sansone said. “That goes with peaceful protests as well as ones that get a little bit more sour.”
Metro officers responded to the scene of the protest outside of Heck’s office, instructing people who had assembled on the public sidewalk to walk back and forth. Standing, they were told, would be considered loitering.
Numerous people with video cameras eventually ascended the staircase to Heck’s office, where staff tried to enforce a no camera policy by quickly opening and closing the door of the office to admit people wishing to drop off petitions one-by-one as people with cameras recorded the event.
Heck’s staff said they’ve seen dozens of gatherings of people advocating for numerous causes outside of the office, and they’ve tried to accommodate by moving people across the street to an empty lot not managed by the group that calls the police.
Lemon said that individuals who want to talk to Heck are always welcome to schedule an appointment to visit the Henderson or Washington, D.C., office.