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CINCINNATI -- More than 50 protesters showed up to a local county chamber of commerce event here where Sen. Rob Portman was set to speak Friday. However, the Ohio Republican never did.
A spokesman said Portman was unable to make it back to Ohio for the event due to early morning Senate votes. But the protests were just the latest in a series of noteworthy disruptions staged by opponents of President Donald Trump intent on making their voices heard when Congressional Republicans return to their home states and districts.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, faced a constant stream of jeering from a crowd at a town hall event in his home district on Thursday. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., was also confronted by passionate supporters of the Affordable Care Act during an event with her constituents. And last weekend hundreds showed up to protest California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock in what became a rowdy town hall.
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“I hope it’s the Tea Party for the left, and I hope that it’s much, much more than that,” said Brigid O’Kane a professor at the University of Cincinnati, about the bubbling protests around the country while holding a sign that read: “Let Refugees In, Kick Trump and Bannon Out.”
A woman shouted from behind: “This is the Cincinnati resistance!”
U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup stepped in to replace Portman at the ticketed chamber event. When the Cincinnati congressman mentioned healthcare from the stage, a single protester rose from the back and abruptly yelled, “Obamacare saved my life!”
Tanisha Agee-Bell, who says she had previously volunteered for one of Portman’s campaigns, stood outside with others who said they heard about the protest through social media posts.
“He’s a coward, and he doesn’t want to face us. He won’t have a town hall. Wherever he shows up, we’ll be there,” Agee-Bell said.
The protesters in Portman’s hometown of Cincinnati took issue with his vote to confirm Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a lack of pushback on the president. The demonstrators also bemoaned unanswered phone calls at Portman’s Senate office.
“I’ve done more in three weeks since the inauguration than I’ve done in 72 years,” said Susan Namei, a protester who noted that her husband is an Iranian immigrant who is now a naturalized citizen. She joined the gathering with a friend who held up a handmade sign with the words: "Moral Courage Needed!"