Expect More Than Just Town Hall Protests This August

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Michael Clevenger / The Courier-Journal / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Representative John Yarmuth speaks during his town-hall meeting at Central High School in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 2, 2009

Four years after August town hall meetings devolved into shouting matches, fistfights and arrests, many members of Congress will return home for recess this week to find the battle has once again come to them, whether they host a town hall or not.

From immigration reform to Obamacare repeal, citizens’ groups are planning to make themselves heard over the coming month of congressional recess, with phone-call campaigns, rallies and good old town-hall crashers, though few expect those events to rise to the level of discord that the nation endured in 2009. In each case, the goal is not only to pressure lawmakers, but also to grab headlines and nightly news coverage in the slow news cycles of late summer.

On Monday, Organizing for Action (OFA), a nonprofit organization created this year to push forward the White House’s policy initiatives, will hold a national day of action urging citizens to support comprehensive immigration reform. Volunteers will be handing out flyers, hosting rallies and even posting their homes’ addresses online to stage call-ins to their Congress members. “Wherever these Congressmen will put themselves in a position to talk to the public, we’ll have folks there. That just frankly doesn’t happen as often anymore,” says Jon Carson, executive director for OFA. “An effective way to do it when you don’t have a town hall is to go flyering, combined with social media.”

(MORE: Immigration Debate Brings Strange Bedfellows—And New Hope—to Washington)

And even if legislators host a town hall in August, outside groups still face the challenge of mobilizing its members to attend. “In any organization only a small fraction are actually going to walk outside and go somewhere,” says Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, which advocates for lower immigration levels. “Most of them are doing things like the phone calls and e-mails.”

Still NumbersUSA plans on taking a few cues from the old playbook, circulating among its 2 million members a list of 50 town-hall events targeting 22 House Republicans over the next three days. “Our game plan is to hold the Republicans because almost all of them are of the mind at the moment that they don’t want to have to vote on amnesty this fall,” says Beck. “So the job of our activists is to help reassure them that that’s the right thing to do.”

On Friday, Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration-reform group, was arrested on Capitol Hill with dozens of others demanding the House take action. “You can see there’s a desperation,” says Beck. “They are kind of like the Tea Party activists of ’09.”

Mi Familia Vota, a national Latino pro-immigration nonprofit, has also created a list of targeted town halls, with hopes of crashing many of the same events as NumbersUSA. In addition, Mi Familia Vota, in partnership with the Alliance for Citizenship, will launch over 70 community canvassing efforts, voter-registration drives, local campaigns to engage business, faith-based initiatives, and citizenship-assistance and information sessions. Clarissa Martínez of the National Council of La Raza, which supports legalization of all unauthorized immigrants, told USA Today that a coalition of groups would host 360 different events in 52 congressional districts during the recess.

While Carson and Beck noted that fewer Congress members are willing to host town halls, neither denied their effectiveness. Carson raised Paul Ryan‘s town hall two weeks ago in Racine, Wis., where he revealed to a crowd of over 300 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church the House plan on immigration reform. He said there would be a series of bills on border security, interior enforcement, visa tracking and workplace verification, and a path to legalization for the undocumented, “tentatively” scheduled for a vote in October.

“I think any opportunity for a grassroots activist to be in front of the person who represents them in Washington is highly effective,” says Whitney Neal, grassroots coordinator for FreedomWorks, which organized protests at town halls nationwide in 2009 to oppose Obamacare. The group is creating a town-hall calendar so activists can ask their Representatives to defund the bill.

“They are representing the people,” says Neal. “If they don’t go back home and crowd-source the issues, thoughts and feelings of their constituents, what are they doing in Washington?”

MORE: President Trumpets Obamacare Rebates as Deadline Approaches

9 comments
DianeChavez2
DianeChavez2

Does anyone know why in Southern California, American citizens are not really allowed to speak at traitorous town hall meeting for illegal aliens? Did anyone think the U.S. would come to this? One American citizen actually had to yell out his comments?  Why isn't TIME discussing this?

cent-fan
cent-fan

[“I think any opportunity for a grassroots activist to be in front of the person who represents them in Washington is highly effective,” says Whitney Neal, grassroots coordinator for FreedomWorks, which organized protests at town halls nationwide in 2009 to oppose Obamacare. The group is creating a town-hall calendar so activists can ask their Representatives to defund the bill.

“They are representing the people,” says Neal. “If they don’t go back home and crowd-source the issues, thoughts and feelings of their constituents, what are they doing in Washington?”]

This from a guy pushing his "grassroots" agenda in one nationwide splatter campaign ( !! ) to teach the Washington politicians how to be informed of the intimate concerns of their "local" constituents.



 

MrObvious
MrObvious

Keep in mind that the GOP house have decided to put together a talking points package when they go back home that includes soft ball questions from plants that will stop anyone from asking real questions.

The idea is to smooth over the fact that GOP spends more time repealing Obamacare then doing anything else. And they want to sell voters on that the reason they're doing nothing is because they're 'fighting Washington'. They want to be judged by how much they repeal and not what they legislate.

Maybe instead of the name legislators they should change it to repealers. So people get the right idea.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

It will be good for everyone if real protests erupt over Congressional inaction ...unlike the earlier artificial astroturfed Tea Party "protests" over health care reform.

drudown
drudown

Is this the "puff piece" that precedes the "paid for" lobbyist mobs posing as "ordinary Americans" that (what else) "have had it" with Legislation aimed at, say, lowering Health Care costs (via Obamacare's competitive pricing component)?

Pity that our Media seems unwilling to peel back the Corporate veneer to "grassroots" groups that are just as phony as the "expert witness" reports purporting to challenge Climate Change.

This is what the abolition of the Fairness Act by the Reagan Administration sought to achieve. 

News that campaign contributors can fabricate. 

Meanwhile, the GOP obstructs in order to create a disfigured example allegedly validating their "government is the problem" self-fulfilling, lobbyist-driven prophecy. 

That too, purchased for consideration and currency. 

"The hand that rules the press, the radio, the screen and the far-spread magazine, rules the country." - Learned Hand

tommyudo
tommyudo

@cent-fan


If you look at the town hall calendar, those meetings are all with hard core GOPers. Preaching to those that are  yelling, screaming and venting seems more like a town hall "circle jerk" to me. One thing that can be certain, is that any yahoo among the throng that refers to Obama as being a foreign born "Marxist, Kenyan, Un-American, socialist, traitor" will not be called on it my their member of Congress, since they are all cowards.

MrBenGhazi
MrBenGhazi

@MrObvious You'd think that the voters wanting to repeal the ACA so desperately would look at the incompetence (~40 failed attempts to repeal it?) of the current GOP crop and vote for some candidates who might actually work WITH the Democrats to implement their agenda. 

Perhaps that would make too much sense.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@ZacPetit @MrObvious 

"winger voters do - so much fail just proves how adamant their representatives are about 'fighting Washington'.

Most people just see it as a massive amount of time wasting (and tax payer money wasting) fail but most people are not 'wingers.