A group of New York City children banned from singing “God Bless the USA” at a graduation ceremony were heckled by adults when they sang the song at a nearby playground.
The protest had been organized by parents at PS 90 in Coney Island. They were outraged after principal Greta Hawkins banned kindergartners from performing the song at their graduation ceremony. Staffers said the principal was worried the patriotic anthem might offend other cultures.
She also feared that the Lee Greenwood song would not be age-appropriate for the youngsters – concerns shared by the New York City Dept. of Education.
Among those attending the protest was Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY) who had been invited by parents. Turner is running for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY).
“I thought it would be a great idea,” Turner said. “The kids were a delight.”
According to video of the incident, boys and girls were waving American flags and singing “God Bless the USA” when adults began swarming and shouting.
They were shouting down the kids as they were singing,” Turner told Fox News Radio. “This was really bad form.”
“You Republicans come go to a Republican area and do that, we don’t do that here,” one of the hecklers said. “This is ridiculous, this is sad. This is so crazy. This is sad.”
A Turner staffer can be heard off camera asking the protesters to stop – and to “let the kids sing.”
“The kids don’t even know what they’re singing,” the unidentified protester replied. “They got something you tell them to say. It’s ridiculous. It’s sad, sad, sad. You all are going to burn in hell. You all burn in hell. Shame on you. Shame on you.”
At one point, a tattooed protester cursed.
“You got a right to make noise, I got a right to make noise,” the protester said.
The video shows boys and girls as they began chanting, ‘USA USA” in an attempt to drown out the protesters.
Turner accused the Gillilbrand campaign of orchestrating the hecklers. He said at least one “tracker” from her campaign was present filming the altercation.
“These people were doing some provocative things to get some sort of a news story,” Turner told Fox News Radio. “We can have our political differences, but I thought this was over the top.”
Glen Caplin, a spokesman for the Gillibrand campaign said it was outrageous to think that they had anything to do with the incident.
“This is a bizarrely-false claim,” Caplin said in a statement to Fox News Radio. “No one from our campaign had anything to do with the mayhem of this event. Young schoolchildren know the difference between the truth and make-believe, so it’s too bad Congressman Turner didn’t learn anything from the kids.”
Turner said Gillibrand needs to explain herself.
“That would be a good starting point,” he said.