Yesterday in Rockland, outside Ottawa, they did more than show up. They showed in.
For the first time, the tight bubble that surrounds Prime Minister Stephen Harper's campaign burst, if only briefly.
Joel Harden, 36, a supporter of American war resister Jeremy Hinzman who is due to be deported next week, stood up as Harper began to speak to about 500 party faithful in this town in the eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.
Holding a handmade red maple leaf poster, Harden, a resident of the riding, called out to Harper to "have a heart," and not to deport Hinzman, who opposes the Iraq war. Harden stood behind a riser, at least 20 metres away from the Prime Minister, and blocked from Harper's view by TV cameras.
But he got only a few words out before Mounties pounced on him and hustled him out of the hall. It was a glimpse of the "close protection" cordon around the Prime Minister.
Harper barely broke his stride and made no reference to the disruption.
Conservative supporters cheered, and Harden, who put up no resistance, was escorted out and ordered off the hotel property. So were the reporters who wanted to interview him. Harden said he was "not surprised that their answer is to throw me out." He said he had resorted to calling out to the Prime Minister because requests by Hinzman's supporters for meetings with government officials have been turned down.
"There's a debate in the country that the Prime Minister doesn't have a heart. But we haven't given up. ... we're just at the end of our rope," said Harden, a researcher for the Canadian Labour Congress, who says he met and befriended Hinzman in Toronto.
The Hinzman family won political support from the Liberals, who on Thursday reaffirmed their commitment to help to keep war resisters in Canada.
Hinzman, 29, wife Nga Nguyen, and their two children are ordered to leave Canada by Tuesday or face deportation to the U.S., where Hinzman faces imprisonment and a criminal record.
When Hinzman's unit was being deployed to fight in Iraq, in a war he calls "immoral," he couldn't get a pass as a "conscientious objector." He and his family came to Canada in 2004.
But as Harper ended a five-day trek through Ontario and Quebec, travelling mostly to ridings the Conservatives do not now hold, there was no tolerance for intruders at party pep rallies.
Later, a Conservative official was cool to Harden's appeal on Hinzman's behalf: "If you don't want to get in the war, don't join the army."
When the campaign arrived outside a Quebec community centre in the riding of Vaudreuil-Soulanges, where Harper introduced his 30 Montreal-area candidates, reporters were kept on buses while about 25 federal public servants, members of PSAC, protested outside.
Security, always tight, appeared even tighter.
Hooray for Joel!! This is awesome. Video to follow.