Professor Arrested For Yelling About Venezuela on Plane Says She Was "Tortured" in MIA

Last weekend, a 52-year-old woman was arrested at Miami International Airport under bizarre circumstances. In videos captured by fellow passengers on her Nicaragua-to-Miami flight, Karen Halnon yelled loudly about the U.S. "declaring war" on Venezuela and about her support for Hugo Chavez. She also lit up a cigarette mid-flight.

A week later, Halnon isn't backing down from her mid-air display. In fact, the college professor at Penn State Abington says her actions were actually "civil disobedience." And she says that authorities in Miami "tortured" her after landing, forcing her to urinate and defecate on the floor in an airport holding cell. 

Halnon was arrested as soon as her plane touched down at MIA for yelling throughout the flight about U.S. plots against Venezuela, hollering "The United States has declared war on Venezuela!" and eventually lighting up a smoke.

But in an interview this morning with Philadelphia Magazine, Halnon insists she doesn't regret her actions on the plane. 

"I teach about U.S. imperialism in Latin America. And the U.S. has declared war against Venezuela," she tells the mag. "That means military aggression. They tried to take out Hugo with a coup, and then they took him out with cancer." Halnon says her outburst was meant to draw attention to U.S. "military global domination" and to "save lives" in Venezuela.  

As for that cigarette, the professor notes that "a sociologist always thinks in terms of symbols. And every revolutionary I know smokes."

Halnon says U.S. officials tortured her after her flight landed at MIA. She says she was put in a freezing room for hours by FBI and TSA agents, leaving her to urinate in her pants to humiliate her. Then her treatment got worse. "I was yelling that I had to go to the bathroom," she tells the magazine. "But they ignored me, and I defecated on the floor. And they made me pick it up and laughed at me."

Halnon insists she was sober throughout the ordeal and that she would do it again today. 

She was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, but a judge has withheld adjudication, Miami court dockets show.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink