Calling for a face-to-face meeting, more than 100 North Georgia Democrats and activists gathered for their second protest outside of Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins’ Gainesville office on Tuesday.
The Washington Street protesters were organized by Indivisible Lumpkin, a grassroots political group formed after President Donald Trump’s election, and North Georgia Democratic groups.
The first demonstration was held March 6, when protester Marisa Pyle was promised by Collins that he would hold a town hall this summer, she told The Times during the Tuesday protest.
“I see that it is now summer. It has hit 90 degrees at least once,” said Pyle, who was one of three protesters to meet with Collins in March. “We’re still waiting, so we came back.”
In 2016, Collins held town halls in August. Spokeswoman Jessica Andrews wouldn’t comment on the protest, but forwarded a statement that “Collins has hosted in-person town halls across the Ninth Congressional District and will continue to do so. While future scheduling is still underway, the Congressman’s office will share dates for public events going forward.”
Collins also holds regular telephone town halls, but those have also grown tense with the recent vote to replace Obamacare. He said on May 20 that vocal opposition from the left wouldn’t change his mind on core Republican positions.
“I’m not going to get the Obamacare fan. Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced — it’s what we’re doing. I’m not going to raise taxes — it’s not what we’re doing. We’re not liberals,” Collins said during a Hall County GOP event. “Just because you scream at me, I’m not going to change my stripes. I’m conservative.”
With a pair of bullhorns being passed among the group, protesters entreated, taunted, criticized and chanted on the sidewalks of Washington Street by the main entrance of the Hosch Building off of the Gainesville square, where Collins has his district office.
They demanded that Collins hold his town hall — mocking the telephone town halls used by the
third-term representative — and knocked him for voting in favor of the American Health Care Act.
Collins wasn’t in his office on Tuesday. Staff who were there said they had no comment on the protest, directing questions to Andrews.
Collins ran unopposed in the 2016 general election after winning 61.3 percent of the vote in a Republican primary that included four challengers
Many of the protesters were from the northern stretch of Georgia’s 9th Congressional District. One of the group, Michelle Sanchez Jones, was a Gainesville resident who is volunteering with the Jon Ossoff campaign in the 6th District. Jones ran for a Georgia General Assembly seat against Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville, in 2016; Dunahoo won with 74 percent of the vote.
“It’s bad enough that they didn’t expand Obamacare in the state of Georgia, and now they’re trying to kick even more people off of health care and make it to where insurance companies are able to deny people health insurance with pre-existing conditions,” said Jones, who’s also the executive vice president of the Young Democrats of Georgia.
A self-described independent, she became interested in politics during Sen. Bernie Sanders’ rise during the 2016 Democratic primary election. Sanders, an independent socialist who joined the Democratic Party leading up to the presidential election, grilled both Democrats and Republicans as being in the pocket of big business and Wall Street.
His rhetoric on corruption attracted Jones to his campaign as a volunteer, she said.
And Tuesday’s protest in Gainesville had much the same energy Sanders brought from the far left to the 2016 primary. Protesters called for single-payer health coverage in the United States — similar to the government-run system in the United Kingdom — for an end to school vouchers and for both Trump and Collins to be kicked out of office.