Georgia demonstrators turned a low-profile event with junior congressional staffers into a stand against Donald Trump's policies. Now they’re demanding a chance to vent to the lawmakers in-person at a town hall meeting.
Several groups on Saturday called for Sen. David Perdue and other Republicans to hold a traditional town hall meeting in metro Atlanta, and scheduled a protest at his downtown Atlanta office on Tuesday to drive their point home. Some singled out a statement from Perdue’s office that their protest would “deny those who really need help.”
“We are the people who really need help,” said Janel Green, an organizer of the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, one of the groups spearheading the demonstrations. “We have no voice, no representation in the Senate as our senators refuse to hear our concerns.”
A wave of national protests have rocked GOP events since Donald Trump’s inauguration, including public appearances held by Republican congressmen even in deeply conservative bastions.
With no town hall meetings yet scheduled in Georgia, critics of the president’s policies targeted an event held Friday led by aides to three GOP lawmakers in the east Georgia town of Greensboro as a chance to make a statement. The event was organized by the offices of Perdue, Sen. Johnny Isakson and Rep. Jody Hice.
The staffers to the three politicians were clearly caught off guard by the size and organization of the protesters, and briefly walked out of the room to the chants of "Shame!" A Hice staffer later returned with pen and paper in hand, jotting down notes as more than a dozen speakers railed against Trump’s policies and urged Georgia Republicans to defy him.
Perdue’s spokeswoman Caroline Vanvick said the senator set up the meetings to help Georgians who had “casework concerns” with federal agencies, such as senior citizens and veterans.
“If organized groups want to manufacture protests and continue to be disruptive,” she said, “it will only deny those who really need help.”
Even the phrasing of Friday’s event was a source of controversy.
The lawmakers’ deputies told protesters Friday the event was never intended to be a “town hall” and that they wouldn’t answer questions, leading to a cascade of boos. And a Hice staffer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday it was planned as a “constituent services day” with private one-on-one sessions with residents to hash out passport problems and other issues.
But several organizers on Friday and Saturday circulated a press release from Isakson's office earlier this month describing it as a chance for constituents to talk to his aides about “any issues concerning the federal government, federal legislation or federal agencies.”