GREENSBORO, Ga. - The protests that have rocked Republican town hall meetings across the nation have arrived in Georgia.
Dozens of protesters packed a meeting on Friday in Greensboro hosted by aides to U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson and Rep. Jody Hice. The trio of Republicans, though, were not there.
The meeting – which a Hice spokesman characterized as a routine “constituent service day” featuring private sessions with local residents – is one of the first Republican congressional events in Georgia since Donald Trump’s inauguration.
About a half-dozen congressional aides briefly addressed the crowd, telling them the event was not a town hall and they would take no questions from the floor. They left after crowd members chanted “shame, shame, shame."
A few minutes later, a Hice aide returned to jot down notes about each speaker’s concerns. More than a dozen spoke, sounding off on their fears about the fate of the Affordable Care Act and Trump policies.
“Despite the phone calls, the voicemails, the Facebook messages, the emails – Johnny Isakson still approved (Education Secretary) Betsy DeVos,” said Michelle Golden, a Gwinnett educator. “When is he going to start doing his job and listen to the people?”
The lawmakers’ aides said the event was never meant to be a traditional town hall meeting.
“Staff from our office periodically hold ‘open office days’ alone or together with other congressional offices around the state to assist constituents in interacting with federal agencies and to be available in person for those seeking to express views or concerns to Senator Isakson while he is working in Washington,” said Isakson spokeswoman Amanda Maddox
Amid the wave of protests that followed, left-leaning activists around the nation have tried to turn the typically low-key meetings into spectacles.
They’ve filmed Republicans ducking hostile encounters, held raucous rallies outside the town hall events and commandeered microphones inside them to unleash their frustration at the lawmakers. One California Republican needed a police escort to cut through a ring of protesters surrounding his event. And an angry crowd drowned out Rep. Jason Chaffetz at a town hall Thursday in deep-red Utah.
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Democrats see the protests and pressure as the latest sign of an awakening spurred by Trump’s inauguration. Millions protested in women’s marches around the nation on Jan. 21, while his immigration policy led to another round of rallies at airports.
And Trump opponents in Georgia have flooded GOP lawmakers with phone calls, held their own raucous town hall meetings and protested outside their offices. Left-leaning groups report a spike in donations, volunteers and potential candidates.
Many Republicans – elected officials and otherwise – have been dismissive of the movement. Alex Johnson, a DeKalb attorney who was swept up in a GOP political awakening in 2009, said he’s confident the Democratic groundswell won’t connect with average Georgians. Trump, after all, did win the state with 51 percent of the vote.
“I’m seeing a lot of people involved in the Trump campaign who are getting very fired up because they see what’s going on. The left’s tactics are backfiring on them,” Johnson said, noting a protest in Berkeley, Calif., that led to smashed windows and fires. “Trump is worried about the American people while the left is going around destroying property.
Sen. Perdue released a statement on the protests.
"Our goal is to help as many Georgians as possible who have casework concerns and need assistance dealing with federal agencies like so many of our veterans and seniors. If organized groups want to manufacture protests and continue to be disruptive, it will only deny those who really need help."
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