ARLINGTON, Texas -- A threatened protest at a show featuring actor Ed Asner failed to materialize and the benefit to raise funds for striking air traffic controllers went off without a hitch Saturday, officials said.
'We expected a little protest but nothing turned up,' said Kelly Chaplin, regional coordinator for the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization.
About 650 people paid $12.50 or $15 to attend the benefit to raise 'legal fees for people convicted of felonies for exercising their constitutional rights,' Chaplin said, referring to striking PATCO members.
Asner and 'One Day at a Time' star Pat Harrington 'spoke out against what the government of the United States has done to this group of citizens,' Chaplin said. 'The gist of it was 'How could this happen in America?''
Other officials said an earlier effort to squelch the show may have come from the Texas Board of Regents.
PATCO member Gary Greene said the University of Texas at Arlington asked the organization to cancel the benefit Friday, then raised the rent on the hall where the show was held.
'The deck has been stacked against us again,' said Tim Berlekamp, legislative coordinator for PATCO's southwest region.
'I think outside pressure by individuals who still have a lot of animosity against PATCO has influenced the Board of Regents in Austin all the way down to the president of the college to double the cost of the hall, to make the situation difficult to sell tickets, to do everything they can to stop the show,' Berlekamp said.
Other celebrities appearing at the benefit were B.J. Thomas, John Henry Faulk and former Dallas Cowboy Hollywood Henderson.
Berlekamp said Asner and the other celebrities supported PATCO, but the purpose of the show was to provide freedom of legal representation, not necessarily to support PATCO.
'We've made no efforts to associate UTA with PATCO, Berlekamp said. 'We've concentrated on the 21 people who need legal representation, we haven't even concentrated on PATCO.
'All of a sudden when the pressure comes down, verbal agreements and other agreements have gone out the window.'
A UTA police spokesman said security was increased for the Saturday benefit because many people complained about Ed Asner's participation.
Asner has come under criticism for his $25,000 donation for medical supplies to guerillas fighting in El Salvador. The U.S. government supports the government in power in El Salvador.
'There have been a lot of calls concerning Ed Asner's appearance here and people saying the university should not be involved in it,' said Capt. Sidney Cheek, assistant chief of the UTA police.
Cheek said the number of officers assigned to Texas Hall was increased from three to nine.