Congressman Doug LaMalfa was one of the brave GOP representatives who returned to their districts during recess to engage with their constituents.
He held a town hall meeting at the MacLaughlin Auditorium at Sequoia Middle School from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday. By the time the doors opened hundreds of his constituents had gathered outside. Some had signs protesting Trump’s policies and many came prepared with sheets of red and green paper to communicate agreement and dissent during the meeting. The Guardian Angels in red satin jackets and berets provided a reassuring peaceful presence outside.
The atmosphere was calm and people of all ages began to file in as soon as the doors were opened.
Once the auditorium was filled to capacity with approximately 600 people, the Congressman’s aids instructed all those who wanted to be heard to form a “question” or a “comment” line on either side of the auditorium. LaMalfa crossed back and forth, alternating between taking a question and answering it on one side and hearing two comments on the other. Questions, answers, and comments were limited to one minute.
The meeting began calmly, with questions and comments followed by applause or raising of the signs. It became evident very early on that the majority of those present were dissatisfied with Trump’s and LaMalfa’s agenda. The atmosphere became charged when more challenging questions began to be asked. When presented with scientific facts on climate change, Rep. LaMalfa said that he doesn’t want to “hamstring the U.S. economy”. He further claimed that “human activity is a tiny part of it” and that “we see manipulations by federal agencies on what the actual climate temperatures are”, causing the crowd to erupt in booing.
Throughout the meeting Rep. LaMalfa seemed flustered as voices of dissent insisted. While most people were respectful, using signs during talking points and only vocalizing disagreement intermittently, there were a small number who yelled out “you lie” and “you work for us” constantly.
The issues mentioned most were healthcare (ACA, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security), the environment (EPA, climate change, public lands), and concerns regarding government and ethics in the Trump administration. Other topics included minority rights, immigration, the economy, veteran affairs, and military intervention. The comments and questions were overwhelmingly critical of LaMalfa’s positions and the Trump agenda (46 expressing disapproval, six in approval, and three neutral).
Rep. LaMalfa answered most questions briefly, eliciting strong reactions when discussing the ACA. The audience, who were repeatedly asking for a single payer system and kept sharing how they have benefited from the current system, jeered at the proposal of replacing cost-sharing subsidies for the ACA with refundable tax credits for those on the lower end of the income scale.
LaMalfa was also booed when, asked whether he would supported tax reform without President Trump releasing his tax returns, he replied that the answer was an “easy yes”. He added that he believed the President deserves privacy and should not release his tax returns at all.
Rep. LaMalfa got a break from the crowd when he said that he sympathizes with Dreamers, who have never known another country.
Emotion peaked when Alice Rogers of Mount Shasta took the microphone.
“We see our rights and protections being ripped away” she said, and went on “We are seeing uniquely unqualified and frankly criminal and bigoted people being put in power. And we see you voting 100% lockstep with this administration.” In the midst of cheering, she continued: “You brag of getting rid of job-killing regulations, but that is code to give corporations the freedom to do whatever they want. You vote to let companies sell our private information to the highest bidder, and then you say you want to protect Trump’s privacy”. She drew a long applause and the only standing ovation of the evening.
After an hour and a half, the meeting came to an end, to the disappointment of many who were still waiting in line for comments and questions.
Antonia Walker studied illustration and anthropology at The New School in New York. She worked as a professional illustrator before dedicating herself to painting. She is a realist painter and has shown her work in the United States and Spain. A series of grants and residencies took her to Spain for two years where she learned Spanish, and then back to New York where she began an artistic collaboration with artist Thalia Chantziara. Antonia loves nature and cooking and is passionate about domestic politics and women’s rights. She is currently living in Redding.
Thalia Chantziara is an artist currently living in Redding, CA. Her work has been exhibited in New York City and across the United States. Lately she has spent extensive time painting on grants and residencies. She is actively interested in domestic politics related to equality and justice and occasionally illustrates graphic op-eds. She holds a B.A. in Linguistics from Harvard University and a M.Sc. in Finance from the University of Piraeus and has studied art at Grand Central Academy and Janus Collaborative in New York.