Ab­sent GOP law­mak­ers mocked

Sup­port­ers of na­tional protest pack church, ad­dress por­traits

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - HUNTER FIELD

Sev­eral hun­dred Arkansans aligned with a na­tional protest move­ment packed a Lit­tle Rock church on Sun­day to ad­dress por­traits of their con­gress­men who did not at­tend the grass­roots town hall-style meet­ing.

Mem­bers of In­di­vis­i­ble Cen­tral Arkansas pasted pho­tos of U.S. Rep. French Hill, U.S. Sen. John Booz­man and U.S. Sen. Tom Cot­ton to mu­sic stands at the front of the sanc­tu­ary at St. Michael’s Epis­co­pal Church in west Lit­tle Rock. Or­ga­nizer Ter­rie Root asked the pho­tos of each Repub­li­can con­gress­man ques­tions about democ­racy be­fore play­ing the sound ef­fect of crick­ets on her phone.

Root said af­ter­ward that she sent let­ters and email mes­sages to each law­maker be­fore call­ing their of­fices to in­vite them to Sun­day’s meet­ing, but none showed up.

“It points out that they’re not here, and they should be,” Root said of the por­traits. “That’s their job.”

Car­o­line Rab­bitt, Cot­ton’s spokes­woman, said the Dar­danelle Repub­li­can didn’t re­ceive an in­vi­ta­tion to Sun­day’s event.

Booz­man’s spokesman, Sara La­sure, said the Rogers Repub­li­can re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion, but that it was on short no­tice. La­sure added that Booz­man sent his re­grets for be­ing un­able to at­tend.

Hill was in­vited, but he had a sched­ul­ing con­flict, an aide said.

Sun­day’s “miss­ing per­sons” town hall, as or­ga­niz­ers dubbed it on Face­book, is one of many be­ing held by In­di­vis­i­ble chap­ters around the coun­try dur­ing Congress’ re­cess.

The face-to-face meet­ings be­tween law­mak­ers and their con­stituents have spawned videos of pas­sion­ate — and at times an­gry — in­ter­ac­tions be­tween the two. Some con­gres­sional mem­bers have shirked the events al­to­gether.

Cot­ton par­tic­i­pated in a town hall on Tues­day in Spring­dale at­tended by more than 2,000 peo­ple. Ozark In­di­vis­i­ble helped or­ga­nize the event, which grabbed na­tional head­lines af­ter sev­eral con­tentious mo­ments.

Rab­bitt said that Cot­ton plans to host an­other pub­lic fo­rum, adding that he hopes to an­nounce a date and lo­ca­tion soon.

Booz­man has a tele­phone town hall sched­uled for 7:30 p.m. to­day. Those wish­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the phone con­ver­sa­tion can sign up on Booz­man’s web­site.

Hill held a tele­phone town hall on Feb. 15, and he par­tic­i­pated in an event that was open to the pub­lic last week at the Lit­tle Rock Re­gional Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Some con­ser­va­tives have crit­i­cized the meet­ings. Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee, told The Hill that the protests are at­tempts to cause chaos at Repub­li­can events.

“Af­ter fail­ures at the bal­lot box in con­sec­u­tive elec­tion cy­cles, Democrats will try any­thing to dis­tract from an agenda that’s out of touch with Mid­dle Amer­ica,” Hunt told The Hill.

Gov. Asa Hutchin­son, speak­ing at Politico’s an­nual State So­lu­tions Con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., last week, en­cour­aged his fel­low GOP mem­bers to pay at­ten­tion to the meet­ings.

“Be­cause that por­tends what could hap­pen down the road with in­creased in­ten­sity if we don’t han­dle health care right, if we don’t han­dle all of the prom­ises that we’ve in­di­cated we want to work on right,” the gov­er­nor said, not­ing that in­ten­sity can make a dif­fer­ence in pol­i­tics.

At Sun­day’s Lit­tle Rock meet­ing, less of the con­ver­sa­tion fo­cused on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the Repub­li­can-ma­jor­ity Congress’ stated in­ten­tions to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act, also known as Oba­macare. Most speak­ers fo­cused on Trump’s de­par­ture from pres­i­den­tial norms that op­po­nents see as af­fronts to democ­racy.

John Brum­mett, who writes a col­umn for the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette, spoke about the im­por­tance of a free press.

Glen Hooks, di­rec­tor of the Arkansas chap­ter of the Sierra Club, said dur­ing his speech that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Arkansas’ con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion were harm­ing Arkansas’ en­vi­ron­ment through their ac­tions in Wash­ing­ton.

At­ten­dees also heard from mem­bers of the Arkansas Coali­tion for Re­pro­duc­tive Jus­tice and sev­eral other pro­gres­sive ac­tivists.

The meet­ing ended with or­ga­niz­ers hand­ing out the phone num­bers of each law­maker. Most in at­ten­dance pulled out their phone and be­gan call­ing.

“This is how you make a dif­fer­ence,” Rachael Pinkston said just be­fore di­al­ing her rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

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