Protester spots Paul Ryan at fundraiser at Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne

Protesters are escorted out of a Republican fundraising event Friday night, Feb. 16, 2018, at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Key Biscayne. The protesters confronted House Speaker Paul Ryan about guns in the wake of a mass shooting at a Parkland high sc
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Protesters are escorted out of a Republican fundraising event Friday night, Feb. 16, 2018, at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Key Biscayne. The protesters confronted House Speaker Paul Ryan about guns in the wake of a mass shooting at a Parkland high sc
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Miami-Dade County

‘No more guns’: Protesters escorted out of Paul Ryan fundraiser in Key Biscayne

By Alex Harris

aharris@miamiherald.com

February 16, 2018 09:28 PM

Two protesters chanting “no more guns” were removed from a Republican fundraiser in Key Biscayne Friday night after confronting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan about the mass shooting that happened days earlier and miles up the road.

“This is @SpeakerRyan’s version of Thoughts and Prayers. Odd, it looks like a donor event in the tropics,” an activist tweeted, along with a video of people milling about on an outdoor patio.

This is @SpeakerRyan's version of Thoughts and Prayers. Odd, it looks like a donor event in the tropics. #Parkland #GunReformNow #Resist pic.twitter.com/JTQtRiNMMl

— PerSisters (@PERSlSTERS) February 17, 2018

Ryan tweeted that the Wednesday shooting, which left 17 people dead and 15 wounded, was “pure evil.”

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Maria Thorne, a Key Biscayne activist, said she noticed motorcade traffic clogging up her commute home from her job as a fifth grade teacher at iPrep Academy, where she spent the day reassuring scared students that she could keep them safe from a shooter.

Thorne, 49, heard a rumor that the motorcade might belong to Ryan, so she took a friend into the Ritz to investigate. She said men with lanyards at the entrance of a private area confirmed that it was a fundraiser for Ryan.

The National Republican Congressional Committee — the national fundraising arm for House Republicans — lists a 2018 Winter Meeting held in Key Biscayne this weekend.

Ryan’s spokesperson confirmed to the Herald that he attended the event, which had been planned months in advance.

Thorne said she found Ryan in the middle of the room — “I shook his hand and everything,” she said — and introduced herself as a teacher and Key Biscayner.

“Nice,” the Republican congressman replied.

“Nice?” Thorne said. “You’re here celebrating the death of 17 children.”

At that, Thorne said, Ryan told her he “didn’t want to talk politics” or argue. When Thorne tried to continue, security escorted her out. She chanted “No more guns!” on her way out the door, she said.

Thorne wants politicians, including Ryan, to pass laws that tighten gun control.

A native of Peru, Thorne said she remembered watching news of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999.

“I lived through terrorism and bombings, but I’ve never witnessed anything like that in my life,” she said.

Since then, the teacher said, the shootings have grown more frequent and worse. She’s tired of watching them and tired of worrying about her children and her students.

“I’m tired. Nobody listens. Everybody tries to twist it around,” she said. “I’m a registered Democrat, but right now I just don’t want anybody that’s been fed by the NRA, otherwise this is never going to stop.”