Another one reverberated, “We are one nation, no mass deportation!”
It felt like a hot summer day when I went to Metairie for a town hall, hosted by Bill Cassidy, U.S. senator of Louisiana. Around the country some elected officials chose to attend town halls during the President’s Day congressional recess, and some chose to ignore their constituents for fear of being screamed at. At least Cassidy didn’t cower at the idea of having angry citizens express their concerns about the new White House Administration and its orange warlord. I’m sure he knew what he was in for, because he strategically chose to have the event in a small venue that fit about 200 people, and it was scheduled to last only one hour. Try fitting policy concerns from hundreds of constituents into one hour, and you will fail.
A friend and I expected to at least make it to the back of the venue. But by the time I arrived at the library, I saw crowds of people walking from the entrance towards the parking lot.“They closed the doors. We’re going to see if he’ll come out from the back,” they told us.
Some people had been there since noon, hours before the start to get a spot inside. I assumed it would take place in a large auditorium, and most of us would be able to get in. Over by the entrance, there were hundreds of people holding up signs. One read, “Keep the EPA. No Pipeline.” Another, “Investigate Trump ties with Russia,” and “Healthcare is a human right.”
The best signs were close to the barricades that security guards had set up near the entrance. There was a small group of people using a microphone. One lady was recounting her experience with Affordable Care Act and how it allowed her to get coverage for her illness. There was also a guy that talked about listening to who have different ideologies. “Don’t let them tell you should hate them. They voted for someone else but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore them…,” his voice trailed off as I kept walking.
I thought about the sentiment of putting yourself in another person’s shoes, and listening to their point of view before relying on severe judgment and ridicule. If anything has come out of this election, it’s that we shouldn’t be afraid to talk to people outside our circle. Fear doesn’t allow for the exchange of ideas; it only further divides us.
We ventured to the parking lot where people were waiting for Cassidy to come out. The number of people on this side was also significant and kept increasing as the hour approached when Cassidy would exit. A couple of people were following the meeting through live feeds. From the videos, it sounded like there was plenty of yelling. Someone said Cassidy had a power point presentation for the audience on how the senate and congress function. People were also told to leave their signs outsides— nothing bigger than 8×11 could be brought in. “He had everyone write their questions on an index card, and now he’s only talking about health care,” one lady said. “But he’s also answering other stuff now,” but this was only after people started demanding it. Cassidy had everyone write their questions in an index card, and read them as he saw fit. It would have been better to have people line up to ask their questions.
One guy outside got a little rowdy when the security officer told him not to pass further into the driveway. There were signs that recalled Cassidy being paid off by Betsy Betsy Devos, who donated $70,000 to his campaign. Many called him to oppose her confirmation vote, and expressed frustration on his Facebook account. “Oh that’s not necessary, were fine just standing here,” said a lady behind the guy who was yelling about Cassidy’s record.
We sat down for a while and my friend asked if I thought aggression was sometimes necessary? It’s a double edge sword. Even when protestors are marching peaceful—take the case of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation— they are painted by the mainstream media as criminals, instigators and rioters who are acting violent, which could not be further from the truth. There’s a danger that while our intentions may be noble, there are individuals that use this opportunity to rage, loot and set things on fire, but by in large most protests are peaceful except for minor rioters who in no way represent the whole message. That’s also not to say you shouldn’t express your anger over real issues, but there are definitely strategic ways, and yelling a few facts into the air and chanting vigorously is not criminal. Sometimes the only way to get heard is to be in the face of powerful people, who refuse to hear facts and rational arguments. I keep asking: Is our anger not justified? At what point does it become justified?
I talked to one lady, who had come down to protest because she was worried about the Devos confirmation, ACA and the investigation on cheetolini’s campaign connection to Russia. Some medical students who wore white lab coats were hoping to ask questions about ACA. They were worried about coverage and preconditions. They told me that one of their friends luckily made it inside the venue.
Chants from the crowds rose: “Refugees are welcome here.” “Say it loud, say it clear.” Another one reverberated, “We are one nation, no mass deportation!”
Someone standing near us asked, “Where are they being sent?” It was reported that immigrants are being sent to Mexico, regardless of the fact that they are not from there. I remember reading an article about the backlog of detainees stemming from the Obama Administration, and with the new ICE raids it will only exasperate the problem, since immigrants without criminal backgrounds are not being exempt.
There was no sign of Cassidy yet, and it was well after the end of the event. Some suspected he left through a different door, but a lady, assured us that, “No, that’s his car, parked right over there.” On the live feed, Cassidy was taped leaving the town hall abruptly to the shout of audience members who complained that he had arrived late and left quickly.
The sun was drying us out, so we decided to leave. My friend said she wanted to ask him about the Bayou Pipeline. “Maybe he’ll answer your question as he’s leaving,” someone said, to which I laughed imagining the two seconds the question would get, and sadly it was a low-level priority for his administration, because a healthy clean, environment isn’t that important.
Driving away from the library, and watching as some protesters stayed behind, chanting and waiting. I thought about the guy on the microphone, saying to talk to people who have different ideologies and not to simply ignore them. I thought about whether these types of rallies were effective, and my friend pointed out that it allows people to learn and become politically aware. It also means that Cassidy could witness the opposition in numbers. This was not a random occurrence, not some little fuss, but a serious concern with how this administration is being run.