“Do your job”: Angry protesters took over a Republican town hall in Utah
Just three weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, Republican lawmakers are getting a taste of how his policies are going over with voters at home.
On Thursday night, a town hall outside Salt Lake City by Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, boiled over into a raucous display of grassroots rage, largely in opposition to Trump and Republican leaders’ attempts to dismantle Barack Obama’s legacy.
As many as 1,000 angry constituents packed into a high school auditorium to chant “Do your job! Do your job!” at Chaffetz. This was in reference to Chaffetz’s position on the House Oversight Committee and refusal to investigate Trump for his alleged conflicts of interest. Chaffetz struggled to respond to the swelling of rage and strained to make himself heard over the microphone.
“You’re not going to like this part,” Chaffetz said to loud boos. “The president, under the law, is exempt from conflict of interest laws.” That did not go over well with the crowd.
At other points throughout the evening, protesters yelled “Your last term” and “Shame!” at the congressman.
“Come on, come on, you’re better than this,” Chaffetz tried to say over the din.
“No we’re not!” a voice shouted back in return.
The event was remarkable, considering town halls are usually quiet civic events where the local PTA ask their elected representatives polite questions. In this case, people made emotional pleas to Chaffetz not to take away their healthcare or gut Planned Parenthood, and to hold the new administration to account for possible ethics violations.
At one point a young girl asked Chaffetz, “Do you believe in science? Because I do.”
“I don’t pretend to have all the answers,” he responded. “There are good people on both sides of the aisle,” he said, nearly drowned out by boos.
The scene was reminiscent of the fledgling tea party movement during the summer of 2009, when angry conservative voters descended onto their representatives’ town halls. Many credit that tactic with getting the wave of conservative Republicans into office during the 2010 midterm elections.
— Richard Preiss (@richardmpreiss) February 10, 2017
Chaffetz tried to stay cheerful and nonchalant, even while protests outside the high school auditorium swelled to even greater crowds and the din inside grew so loud he joked it was “like the ‘Price Is Right’ here.”
— Kyung Lah (@KyungLahCNN) February 10, 2017
The protesters were largely organized by progressive activist organizations, including Indivisible and Town Hall Project, which is working to mobilize Democrats to fight Trump and Republicans. According to a CNN reporter, many of the people who were at the Utah event had never been to a town hall before.
Many of the questions yelled at Chaffetz were about Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump adviser, who recently promoted Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand during an appearance on Fox News. Chaffetz said yesterday he would refer Conway to his committee for an ethics investigation and that her statement was “clearly over the line” and “unacceptable.”
The protest in Utah wasn’t the only emotional town hall on Thursday. In Tennessee, around a 100 protesters descended on Republican Rep. Diane Black’s “Ask Your Rep” event with a similar angry message, including one woman who made an impassioned plea for preserving the core tenets of the Affordable Care Act.
— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) February 10, 2017
“As a Christian, my whole philosophy in life is pull up the unfortunate,” one young woman, visibly shaken, said to Black. “The individual mandate, that’s what it does: The healthy people pull up the sick.”
Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @oliviaLbecker