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A demonstration to talk to a congresswoman

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A sign at the demonstration at Congresswoman Susan Brooks' "Connect with your Congresswoman" event. - MICHELE WHITEHAIR
  • Michele Whitehair
  • A sign at the demonstration at Congresswoman Susan Brooks' "Connect with your Congresswoman" event.

"Come out here! Come out here!”

People gathered at the “Connect with your Congresswoman” event hosted by 5th District Representative Susan Brooks (R-IN) shouted as they waited to speak to the congresswoman, asking that she speak to the group as a whole.

She did not address the crowd as a group. Oliver Wise, Brooks’ scheduler told the gathered crowd waiting in line that the reason for this was because town-hall style meetings often turned into shouting matches.

“I would rather have everybody be able to hear each other’s ideas, and part of it is that’s a way for people to express how they’re feeling, especially if they’re passionate about a topic,” said James Ziegler, one of those gathered to talk to Brooks. He had questions for Brooks about refugee immigration and healthcare.

The demonstration garnered the support of over 100 people who showed up early on Saturday morning to ask Brooks their questions. Almost all in attendance were Brooks’ constituents.

“We really wish for these elected officials to really represent people that they’re supposed to represent, rather than the interests,” said Veronique Barth, an organizer of the demonstration. “What we’re trying to do,” she continued, “is to just basically show up, and show her that there are quite a few people who are actively interested in what’s going on with her politics.”

The gathered crowd murmured among themselves as they waited in line for a chance to sign in and sit at one of the tables to wait to speak to Brooks. When it was their turn, they were led into a room to speak to her in private. They were told that because of the sheer number of people gathered to talk to Brooks, it was likely that not everyone would be able to speak directly with her, but Wise mentioned that they would get a chance to talk at least to a representative from Brooks’ office.

Closer to the end of the event, people were organizing into groups by the topic they wanted to talk to her about and were meeting with her  in small groups. 

“My topic is hyper partisanship,” said Jean Alley, one of those at the event. “I just want to share my feelings. In popular parlance, there’s a saying 'if you see something say something.' I want to ask the Congress to be held accountable to that same rule. When you   see something that doesn’t feel right, ask.” 

In the aftermath of President Trump’s numerous executive orders, Brooks released a statement:

“It is up to us to ensure that their efforts to do so are unsuccessful, and increased scrutiny of people traveling to the United States from such places is one way to accomplish this goal. However, I do not believe in discrimination, I do not support a religious test for immigrants or refugees, and I do support our nation's refugee resettlement program.”

She also called for more information about the effects of the ban on immigration.

“I really believe that our response as a country has been really sad regarding the refugee issue,” Ziegler said, “and I want our Congressmen and women to take a stand. Not just go for political points, not just go for votes. I want them to stand for something, and this is just wrong what’s happening right now. It’s not economic issues. It’s basic human rights, which I feel should defy politics.”

Brooks is one of the only Indiana Republicans in Congress not in support of the executive order on immigration. 

“I appreciate that she spoke out against Donald Trump’s executive order, but it was kind of half-hearted to me,” Ziegler said. 

Topics people wanted to talk to Brooks about ranged from the immigration ban to repealing the Affordable Care Act to public education. 

A large group of people gathered to get their chance to speak to Congresswoman Susan Brooks. - MICHELE WHITEHAIR
  • Michele Whitehair
  • A large group of people gathered to get their chance to speak to Congresswoman Susan Brooks.

“We need a good, strong public education system,” said Sherry Peak-Davis, the director of the Anderson Impact Center, where the demonstration and Brooks event were held. “The population that we serve would be much affected by the policies that are coming down,” she said, referring to public education and healthcare.

The event didn’t start until 9 a. m., but people were lining up in the cold at 8 a. m. to get their chance to talk to Brooks. 

“It feels so wrong that I’m called to action,” said Emily Keller, one of the people waiting to talk to Brooks. “I have three children and I’m scared.”


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