He wouldn’t come to them, so they went to him.
Congressman John Faso and 150 protestors, who waited for two hours to shame the freshman US Representative for working to kill Obamacare.
Congressman Faso was the keynote speaker at Schoharie County Republicans’ 70th annual Lincoln Day Dinner, typically a low-key evening of socializing, door prizes, and speeches. (See related story.)
Inside the Schoharie Quality Inn & Suites Thursday, that was still mostly the case with only passing references to the protest outside and most of them pointing to that group’s First Amendment right to protest.
The protestors, a loose-knit group of grassroots activists, had booked a room inside the hotel, but were forced outside, off hotel property, after staff realized the GOP had booked the entire floor.
Baloney, spokesman Bob Nied said; his check was returned and the reservation cancelled because of political pressure from Republicans.
With the protest already firing up, Mr. Nied worked with Sheriff Tony Desmond to set up a safe space for the crowd to gather, first outside the hotel and then, when management objected again, along the public portion of the road.
Sheriff Desmond and two plain clothes officers were on hand to keep everyone safe—and protestors off the property—but even as they practiced their chants, “Ho, ho, John Faso has got to go!” and “This is what Democracy looks like!” theirs too was mostly a relaxed gathering for the first couple of hours.
Only when Congressman Faso arrived at about 6:20pm to run a half-mile gauntlet of signs did the chants grow boisterous with several protestors chasing after his car.
As the crowd waited for Congressman Faso, Mr. Nied said he was frustrated by the fact that they’d been forced outside and that even working closely with Sheriff Desmond, who’d been more than cooperative, they’d been forced to change their plans and then change them again.
Still, “the demonstrations served as a dramatic exchange between Mr. Faso and his constituents,” Mr. Nied said afterward.
And it had an unexpected bonus: “Perhaps most importantly, as the demonstrators spoke to each other, they made plans for additional demonstrations and for specific efforts at denying Congressman Faso the privilege of another term in Congress.”
Despite efforts throughout the 19th Congressional District, constituents have been unable to set up face-to-face town hall meetings with Congressman Faso, who was elected in November.
That fueled Thursday’s protest, but its main focus was on Congressman Faso’s vote to appeal Obamacare, a vote he explained inside to Republicans later.
“Congressman Faso has ignored the best interest of his constituents by voting for a bill that would deny affordable health care to millions of Americans,” Mr. Nied said.
“Those at the rally waiting patiently to send that message...because he has shunned town hall meetings, ignored emails, and refused to return calls to his office.”
The protestors, with signs reading “Don’t tell us to relax, we pay your taxes,” “We are the 19th, you work for us,” and “You’re going to kill my mother” earned waves, stone-faced stares, and thumbs up—and a couple of middle fingers too—as drivers passed.
Sheriff Desmond addressed the middle fingers by stopping cars for a while, chatting up the drivers, and sharing his dismay with the lack of respect; the “fingers” weren’t repeated.
Congressman Faso was one of the last to arrive for the dinner; several protestors ran after his car, stopping when they reached the police line, and a brief press conference followed with Jessica Daniels, Sara Litzner, and Elliott Adams among the speakers.
Mr. Nied called the protest a success and said it would have been a success if even just 30-40 people had turned out.
Not only was the group able to express their concern to Congressman Faso and State Senator Jim Seward and Assemblyman Pete Lopez, who also attended and spoke at the dinner, he said, but it “was a way for [them] to demand affordable health care for all Americans and to express solidarity and determination to remain strong and united on this critical issue.”