Republican Rep. Tom McClintock had good reason to wonder about the reception he’d get at his town hall this week: A few weeks ago when he returned to his California district, it turned into a scene from Game of Thrones.
“Shame! Shame! Shame!” the crowd in Roseville, California, shouted then, as McClintock walked to his car escorted by police. “Vote him out,” hundreds of protesters chanted.
.@RepMcClintock escorted out of theater by police. @KQEDnews pic.twitter.com/3qMSoPoSVq— Katie Orr (@1KatieOrr) February 4, 2017
On Tuesday, McClintock’s town hall was in Mariposa, a more deeply Republican part of his district, which stretches east and south from Sacramento.
Tensions were still high; hundreds packed the hall, crowds jeered and called out, expressing their concerns over changes to Obamacare and environmental protection policies, Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, and immigration over two hours of questioning. McClintock persisted until the crowds dwindled. This time, the police presence seemed more unnecessary.
Across the country, Republican lawmakers have been facing the wrath of their voters. In the past weeks, town halls have erupted in protest as constituents express their frustration with the Trump administration. President Trump has rejected the validity of the protests, tweeting that the crowds at town halls are just paid liberal activists.
The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2017
Some of the Republican lawmakers — notably those in deep-red states — are picking up Trump’s line, leaving early amid protests or even canceling the town halls altogether.
But the demonstrators beg to differ. They might be organized by nationwide anti-Trump activist groups like Indivisible, but reports from the town halls show constituents raising their driver’s licenses to prove their place of residence and wearing stickers with their zip codes to show they’re constituents too.
Here are some dispatches of the uproar from the town halls.
In Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley gets an earful on Obamacare
Early Tuesday morning, the community center room in Garner, Iowa, population 3,098, was full — people were lining up out the door to participate in Grassley’s town hall. Eight years ago at a similar event, voters came out in droves to protest Obamacare. On Tuesday, demonstrators were there to do the opposite.
Queues going out of the door for Senator #Grassley #townhall. #Iowa. pic.twitter.com/rSmn5uBpEa— Rajini Vaidyanathan (@BBCRajiniV) February 21, 2017
Trump won 51 percent of the vote in Iowa, but at Grassley’s town hall those voters seemed absent. Instead, constituents got heated.
Angry constituents confront Chuck Grassley in Iowa: “If it wasn’t for Obamacare, we wouldn’t be able to afford insurance!” pic.twitter.com/vrbhbOiBMM— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 21, 2017
Crowd getting testy at @ChuckGrassley town hall. Woman interrupts Grassley; man tells her to “shut your hole.” #iapolitics— Kathie Obradovich (@KObradovich) February 21, 2017
One participant asked about the possibility of a Trump impeachment. Grassley declined to answer.
Chuck Grassley asked about impeachment of Trump at town hall in Garner, Iowa: pic.twitter.com/eAPzQe0pLq— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) February 21, 2017
Tennesseans boo Rep. Marsha Blackburn
In Fairview, Tennessee, a group of 130 prescreened constituents filled a hall for Blackburn’s meeting. But as she began asserting her conservative agenda, the room became more heated.
The Huffington Post reported:
The first question came from a constituent who said he was “concerned about oversight in Washington,” specifically the elevation of Steve Bannon, whom he identified as “a notorious white nationalist,” to the National Security Council.
Blackburn initially deflected, saying only, “I don’t speak for the president,” then, after saying she had personally had no problems interacting with Bannon, added, “I am not aware that he’s taken anybody’s place on the NSC.”
A chorus of incredulous boos followed. “It’s all over the national media,” the man asking the question replied.
Outside, hundreds more, not allowed inside the town hall, waited in the rain, asking questions into a microphone that they would have asked inside. According to reporting from the Tennessean newspaper, the “questions and comments were all recorded, and event organizer Bernie Ellis said Blackburn had promised him she would watch the video later.”
Virginia Rep. Dave Brat had a rowdy town hall in a small town
Brat held his town hall in Blackstone, Virginia, a rural, Trump-supporting community of about 3,700 people that’s on the edge of his district, an hour’s drive from some of the more populous areas he represents.
It didn’t stop his voters from coming down for the occasion, to grill him on health care and Trump’s immigration policies. According to the Washington Post, Brat “was heckled nonstop” for just over an hour, and “seemed to antagonize most in the crowd of 150, who yelled back at him, at points drowning him out and prompting a few of his supporters to leave early in disgust.”
The most popular sign at the Dave Brat town hall. pic.twitter.com/PcIdm0M5Pk— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) February 21, 2017
Here's a transcript of the amazing town hall exchange where Virginia Rep. Dave Brat said economic growth is how to protect the environment: pic.twitter.com/ggQjohNRpR— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) February 22, 2017
Lots of folks stuck outside of Dave Brat town hall - they're at capacity at around 200 ppl pic.twitter.com/eqm4Bdw87i— Alexis Levinson (@alexis_levinson) February 22, 2017
On Wednesday, Brat said he enjoyed parts of the town hall. “It went great in some respects,” he told radio host John Fredericks, the Washington Times first reported. “We had a good time, but the crowd wouldn’t let me answer any questions.”
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst walks into impromptu town hall
Ernst, expecting a small “veterans roundtable,” walked into a packed room of riled-up demonstrators in a small eastern Iowan town Tuesday, CNN’s Eric Bradner reported.
MAQUOKETA, Iowa -- It's a packed house for what was billed as a small veterans' event with Sen. Joni Ernst. pic.twitter.com/XjwfIidCsa— Eric Bradner (@ericbradner) February 21, 2017
The crowd cheered for tough questions on Obamacare and Trump’s ties with Russia, forcing Ernst to answer through jeers and chants.
Here's the Obamacare question #Ernst was asked. pic.twitter.com/bAAQIYnLto— Eric Bradner (@ericbradner) February 21, 2017
#Ernst is put on the spot on Obamacare by an enrollee. Her answer: Cite a couple provisions and tout HSAs. The audience jeered throughout. pic.twitter.com/xMVe8WhaWT— Eric Bradner (@ericbradner) February 21, 2017
Ernst ended the impromptu town hall after 45 minutes.
Packed rooms, and no-show lawmakers
Some Republican lawmakers have chosen to skip the town halls altogether. California Rep. Darrell Issa skipped a packed health care town hall Tuesday; Maryland’s Rep. Andy Harris did the same for another Obamacare-focused community meeting Tuesday. In Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Sen. Pat Toomey was also a no-show, protesters came with an empty suit to put onstage.
Town hall scenes from Colorado, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Maryland tonight, where voters showed up but GOP congressmen were no-shows. pic.twitter.com/qfNRnNASlI— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) February 22, 2017