Widowed parent who yelled for daughter escorted from Northwestern High's ceremony in handcuffs

A graduation cheer last week put a graduate's widowed father in handcuffs after he yelled for his daughter, honoring his late wife's request, The Herald learned Friday.

The incident took place at the Winthrop Coliseum in Rock Hill -- the same place where seven other people were arrested for cheering during Fort Mill and York high school graduations last week, sparking national headlines.

Allen Brandon, 37, of Rock Hill said he was removed from Northwestern High School's commencement ceremony in handcuffs June 6 after he stood and shouted "Go, Amanda" when daughter Amanda Brandon's name was called. Allen Brandon, whose late wife, Renee, lost a three-year battle with lung cancer in April, said he shouted because his wife wanted her daughter to be cheered.

"Her mom wanted her daughter recognized. She wanted me to yell for our daughter," Brandon told The Herald. "This graduation was something she was extremely proud of and had been looking forward to.

"I stood up and said, 'Go, Amanda!' I didn't yell anything obscene or use profanity," he said. "But I was taken out in handcuffs, right in front of my 15-year-old daughter, who was in tears."

Rock Hill police confirmed that Brandon was cited for disorderly conduct. However, Brandon was not taken to jail like the other suspects. Instead, he was issued a citation, which carries a $255 fine, and he was asked to leave the premises.

Brandon, a heavy equipment operator, said that after being handcuffed in the Coliseum, led outside and placed in the back of a patrol car, he explained his actions to police. He was then released instead of being transported to the city jail.

"I guess the officer had some sympathy," the Rock Hill native said. "At first, they told me I was going to jail."

Like other area high schools, Northwestern has strict policies about cheering out of turn during the presentation of diplomas. The school requests Winthrop campus police, supplemented by other area law enforcement, to enforce the rules, said Rock Hill schools spokeswoman Elaine Baker. She said all graduates and their families are warned about the rules in advance.

Baker said the rules were put in place after a group of students about 10 years ago requested a more "dignified" ceremony than the raucous event some graduations had become. She said the current policy was developed in response, noting that a time for cheers is allotted at the conclusion of the event.

"At one of our graduations last year, I'll bet we celebrated and shouted for 10 minutes," Baker said. "It's not like a funeral. It's a meaningful occasion, and everyone is treated with respect."

But Brandon said he didn't know that shouting a cheer would be considered arrest worthy.

"I did nothing criminal," he said. "It was humiliating. But if they put my daughter back on that stage, I'd do it again. My wife wanted our daughter recognized."

Brandon, whose oldest daughter Amanda will attend York Technical College in the fall, said he plans to fight the charges when he appears in court in July.

"I'm going to look into a jury trial," Brandon said. "It's easier to pay the fine and shut up, but this is about principle. I don't think what's happening is right."