Hundreds of protesters gathered in Boulder and Longmont on Saturday calling for town hall meetings with Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Ken Buck, continuing the demonstrations that have sprung up following President Donald Trump's inauguration.
"I think there is a lot of energy," said Kaitlin Abbit, of Indivisible Longmont, one of numerous activist groups opposing Trump's agenda. "I think some of it is anger, but it's also a way for people to be engaged. This is a way to be connected."
Congress is in recess until Monday but Gardner has not held any public town halls; his staff say he has met with constituents during the past week. That prompted demonstrators in Boulder to hold a mock town hall featuring Julie Simons dressed as the senator and taking questions from the crowd.
Following her "answers" to questions, a "reality translator" took the stage at the Central Park bandshell and read statements from Gardner's office or commented on the lack of statements from his office on a variety of topics, including health care and immigration.
Gardner's office released a statement on Friday saying the senator has met with constituents during the past week, but his representatives have not answered questions as to why he has not held any public town halls.
"I think it's a disgusting behavior on the part of an elected official," said demonstrator Ira Liss, of Erie. "I think it's dereliction of duty. If you don't want to show up, don't run for office."
The senator was listed as a speaker at the Republican Jewish Coalition's convention in Las Vegas. He announced on his Twitter account that he made an appearance at a private business in Boulder on Thursday.
Charlie Danaher, Vice Chairman of Boulder County Republicans, came to the Boulder rally on Saturday and said he thought that it was interesting but also a "disrespectful spoof" of the senator.
"I think this event has to be taken in the context of the left being in what I call 'full blown hysteria,'" Danaher said. "They think Trump is a racist, a sexist and a fascist. They are sure the whole world is going to suffer a catastrophe as a result of global warming."
He added that he was referring to "the far left" and not Democrats in general, but he said that the people calling for a public town hall do not want "an honest town hall" but just hope to cause chaos.
Republican congressmen and senators across the country have encountered angry crowds at public town halls, leading to some embarrassing moments for politicians when video cameras are rolling.
During a Buck telephone town hall on Thursday night, a woman who called in said that she had a question regarding neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. But Buck cut her off and moved to the next caller.
Buck spokesman Kyle Huwa said the congressman jumped to the next caller because it sounded like the woman wasn't going to ask a substantiative policy question and only sought to disrupt the town hall.
Buck wants 'civil discussion'
Demonstrators in Longmont on Saturday were seeking a town hall with Buck. Organizer Ira Chernus said he had spoken with Buck on Saturday morning and that the congressman agreed to a meeting. He did not yet know the exact details of the format the meeting would have.
Huwa said on Friday that the congressman had spoken with Chernus and the two are working out the details of a meeting, but he did not have details on whether it would be by invitation only, or whether the press would be allowed to attend.
Buck met with an anti-Trump group in Douglas County last week that was by invitation and closed to the press — but The Colorado Independent was not turned away at the door — and Huwa said that the congressman prefers those types of meetings because they prevent groups from shouting and being disruptive, the type of scene seen at some recent town halls around the country.
"He doesn't want to hold a meeting that is going to be disrupted by yelling and shouting and preventing us from having a civil discussion that is at the heart of our democracy," Huwa said. "He is not going to hold a meeting where that is going to happen."
Following the mock town hall in Boulder on Saturday, demonstrators marched down Canyon Boulevard, then toward Pearl Street as they have done the past couple of weeks. Many bore signs claiming to have not been compensated for their time — a joke about Gardner's comment that many of the people calling his office are paid protestors.
Although the demonstration in Boulder was nominally about Gardner's lack of town halls, protestors also came out to voice their frustrations about the future of the Affordable Health Care Act, immigration and Trumps' ongoing efforts at a travel ban.
Demonstrator Lani Castner said she came out on Saturday to protest against Trump's immigration policies, his refusal to release his tax returns and "grumble as pleasantly as I can" about his reported connections to Russia.
She added that she was also frustrated with Gardner's lack of town halls during the past week.
"It shows he doesn't understand his job or who pays his salary," she said. "Can you imagine if you collected your paycheck and didn't do your job?"
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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