U.S. Senator Rob Portman made a speech in Seneca County Feb. 22 that was supposedly open to anyone willing to pay a $30 admission fee.
Shortly before the event, though, many who had forked over that amount were given a prompt refund and told they weren’t welcome.
Janet Garrett, an Oberlin-based Democrat who twice ran against Rep. Jim Jordan for Ohio’s 4th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, was one of those who was excluded.
She suspects it was a preventative measure to silence any dissenting views in the crowd.
In recent months, protests during town hall events across the country have materialized in response to continued overtures by Republicans to repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“We found out the day before we couldn’t attend,” Garrett said. “Everyone’s checks got returned at the same time. It just came in the mail. I called to find out why and was told the event was only for Seneca County Republicans.”
Garrett and approximately 80 other people who were shut out proceeded to stage a protest outside Portman’s speech venue at Terra State Community College in Fremont.
“I ran across a Trump supporter who had a sign saying to get rid of Obamacare,” she said. “I asked him what exactly he wants to have happen. He said he wants us all to have access to affordable, quality health care. I pointed to my own sign and showed him we’re in complete agreement. He visibly softened and opened up after that.”
The Statue of Liberty is inscribed with the famous poem, “The New Colossus,” which Garrett believes provides a simple answer to debates over health care and immigration.
“Are we just supposed to give up on democracy?” she asked. “I don’t think so. What happened to ‘Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’? What happened to that America?”
Portman has recently met with organizations and businesses in Clyde, Sydney, Holland, and East Liberty, but the general public was not made aware of those appearances.
Angry constituents have also been flooding the senator’s phones, fax machines, and Facebook page since his vote of approval for the appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education earlier this month.
Attendance at “resistance” meetings organized by Garrett at the Oberlin Public Library has steadily grown since last November’s election, she said.
“The first one we had 20 people,” she said. “The second one was a little higher but the last one had 55 show up. These were people from all over the county. These were people there who said they’d never done anything politically active before. They’re coming out of the woodwork.”
Garrett thinks both sides of the aisle need to get back to the core beliefs that turned America into a world power to begin with.
“We have to stand on principles and we have to return to our basic American values,” she said. “That’s what bugs me so much about the Republican party, and frankly, many in the Democratic party as well.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.