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Nurse Is Asked How She Got Into Screening

Times Staff Writer

Kelly Di Giacomo said she received a call Tuesday from one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodyguards, asking how she got into the “Be Cool” film screening attended here last week by the governor.

Di Giacomo, a nurse at a Kaiser hospital near Sacramento who had been detained at the theater for questioning, asked why she would be considered a threat to Schwarzenegger. The bodyguard replied: “Well, you were wearing a nurse’s uniform,” Di Giacomo said.

“Oh, sure, the international terrorist uniform,” Di Giacomo scoffed.

The confrontation is the latest flare-up between members of the California Nurses Assn. and the Schwarzenegger administration over workforce issues. The nurses group is among the governor’s most vocal critics, willing to disrupt his events with loud protests.

At the Feb. 15 screening in Sacramento, they stood in the rain outside the historic Crest Theatre near the Capitol, waving signs and booing. Celebrities including Vince Vaughn and the Rock came to the showing, which was organized to promote movies made in California.

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Di Giacomo said she got a ticket to the event through a friend and went to the Crest to protest outside and then watch the movie inside.

Sitting down in the fourth row, she said, she was approached by a plainclothes security officer who asked her to follow him to a back room. While a California Highway Patrol officer stood guard at the door, the agent asked her if she intended to harm the governor.

“I told them that I am just a nurse,” Di Giacomo. “I am just here to see the movie. I am not breaking the law. It’s a symbolic gesture for someone to come in a nurse’s uniform.”

Di Giacomo said that for about an hour, she was alternately questioned -- about where she worked and why she was attending the event -- and asked to wait. Tammy DuTemple, a spokeswoman for the governor’s CHP security detail, said she was questioned for about 30 minutes.

DuTemple said Di Giacomo was allowed to return to her seat but declined, instead rejoining the protest outside.

Precautions are taken “any time the governor is out on any kind of public platform,” DuTemple said. “It’s not just the nurses. It’s any group which might turn and cause harm.”

The security officer “just wanted to make sure there wasn’t going to be any kind of scene and that she doesn’t want to hurt the governor,” she said.

The investigator’s Tuesday call to Di Giacomo was routine, DuTemple said.

The nurses group is angry about an order Schwarzenegger signed that overturns new state regulations on how many nurses should be on duty in emergency rooms and hospitals. Schwarzenegger cited a nursing shortage, but nurses say patient safety is being threatened.

In December, a handful of nurses interrupted the governor’s speech at a women’s conference in Long Beach. It disturbed Schwarzenegger enough that he stopped his address before about 10,000 people, labeled the nurses “special interests” and said he was “kicking their butts.”

The nurses association said Schwarzenegger was using the CHP as his “personal political police force” at the “Be Cool” screening.

“It’s appalling that the highest constitutional officer of our state feels a nurse’s uniform is threatening,” said the nurses association’s executive director, Rose Ann DeMoro.


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