This IS What Democracy Looks Like
The weekly rallies outside the Vista offices of Congressman Darrell Issa are ending this week on April 24. Organizers say they intend to transfer their efforts into getting out the vote to flip Issa’s seat from a reliably Republican vote to a determined Democratic resister of President Trump’s policies.
Mail-in ballots are due to arrive in two weeks, so activists are moving on to drive up turnout to ensure that at least one Democrat will get through the June 5 primary.
“With all four Democratic congressional candidates firmly committed to staying in the race, it is imperative that we work to get as many Democrats as possible to the polls in June, as well as left-leaning Independents and Republicans,” said chief rally organizer Ellen Montanari of Solana Beach. “The number of hours we spend organizing each rally is huge and that time is better spent calling voters, knocking on doors, and texting people to let them know how important this primary election is.”
All-too-often we fail to celebrate our successes. Let us not forget what hard work and persistence can accomplish. Following are some my ‘greatest hits” snips from past coverage of the weekly rallies:
Starting with a few dozen protesters in December of 2016, the Vista rallies grew to average 380 people each week. Memorable moments included a “die-in” to save Obamacare, Issa photographing his constituents from the roof, a visit by NextGen founder Tom Steyer, a 20’-high inflatable chicken and a January 2018 street party to celebrate Issa’s surprise retirement announcement.
Back when they started, Rep. Issa was a powerful politician facing a crucial re-election effort. It was a fight he was ready for, with millions of dollars in his campaign war chest, and the promised backing of the national GOP.
Oh, the memories. Who could forget the BREAKING NEWS from Politico on the morning of January 10?
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will not seek reelection, he announced Wednesday — the latest sign of a growing Democratic wave in this year’s midterm elections.
Issa, first elected in 2000, served as the House GOP’s chief interrogator of the Obama administration as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee earlier this decade. But the political environment in his Southern California district shifted rapidly in recent years: Issa only won reelection by just over 1,600 votes in 2016, while Hillary Clinton carried the traditionally Republican seat in the presidential election by 7 percentage points.
Despite his best efforts at banning or at least containing the Tuesday morning gatherings, the 30-volunteer organizing team and hundreds of weekly protesters persisted.
Back to last year…
In February, activists crowdfunded an ad in the Union-Tribune urging him to hold a town hall on the issue of health care reform:
For weeks now people in the 49th Congressional district have been calling, writing, and even picketing hoping to get Issa to directly engage with them on issues of concern, especially what in store for them with the promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
The wily congressman tried to dodge the issue by staging a “telephone conference” involving carefully screened callers. He rolled out a proposal for ‘accessible’ health care, hoping people wouldn’t notice they’d have no way to afford it. It didn’t work.
People figured out the scam, namely, that Issa isn’t interested in what they have to say. So they passed the hat and called him out in public. Word is that if Issa doesn’t show up at the Jim Porter Recreation Hall in Vista next Tuesday, they’ll place a cardboard cutout of the congressman on the stage.
The “Emergency Town Hall” was a rousing success:
Pressure from citizens groups continues to mount nationwide, as elected representatives grapple with political blowback over health care, immigration, environmental, and other issues raised by Republicans seeking to dismantle America’s social contract.
Nearly 2000 people came to what was billed as an ‘Emergency Town Hall’ in Vista on Tuesday night, even though the guest of honor, Congressman Issa, made it clear he had no intention of showing up.
The Jim Porter Recreation Center quickly filled up to its legal capacity of 350 people; the remaining attendees rallied outside. Midway through the proceedings, which included speakers from faith-based and healthcare organizations, the room was emptied to allow a new group of constituents in to hear speeches.
There’s nothing like a shout out from El Trumpo to keep activists energized:
The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2017
Issa’s support of GOP efforts to kill Obamacare was a popular theme for rallies in the spring:
Last week’s Tuesday Issa protest included a ‘die-in’ targeting the shortcomings of the now-failed Republican effort at health care reform.
From the Union-Tribune–”The event was part protest, part street theater, with many of the 300-plus participants lying on the lawn, holding signs shaped like tombstones. Organizers put the number of attendees near 380.
The event was part of the national “Resist Trump Tuesdays” movement. Protesters said they will continue to show up outside Issa’s office every Tuesday during President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office.”
When over 600 people showed up for the largest weekly rally to date, the Congressman had a little surprise waiting:
A head count taken by the group totaled up 620 citizens who came out on a Tuesday morning to call out Issa for not taking a harder line on #TrumpRussia and for his willingness to vote for the AHRA. CNN sent cameras to the protest, airing footage at 4 & 7pm PST…
…I’m sure the 49th District Congressman had nothing to do with the sprinkler system being turned as people demonstrated outside his Vista office. The late morning lawn watering was a violation of Vista Irrigation District drought response rules.
The month of May was particularly rough for Congressman Issa. Who could forget?:
The weekly demonstrations outside the North County Republican’s office are getting on his nerves. Authorities in Vista are trying to restrict where protestors can gather.
This week’s demonstration prompted the Congressman to climb to the roof of his office building for some amateur photography and gained him a spot on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC evening report.
Issa, of course, denies being rattled. But his actions tell a different story. He had the nerve to claim he was victimized when he was refused the mic after being rude to the organizer of the rally.
And the protests started spreading around the country:
On May 7, Sarasota Indivisible dogged Issa by land and sea at a high-dollar Florida fundraiser. A promise made to hold a forum upon his return to San Diego was made. It never happened.
On May 8, while the richest man in Congress was attending yet another fundraiser, North County Indivisible supporters lined an Encinitas overpass with lighted signs promising to “Repeal & Replace Issa”.
On May 9, 800+ protesters convened outside Issa’s Vista office in Vista for a “Sick Day” rally in response to his deciding vote on the ACHA (Trumpcare). CNN covered the event live.
Two days later, the Republican National Committee meeting at the Hotel Del Coronado was the target of more protests–again covered live by CNN– targeting Issa and the AHCA vote, along with the need for an independent investigation of the Trump/Russia connection.
Issa did actually hold a ‘town hall’ event in early June, at a remote Orange County location and a packed house of his specially invited friends:
Activists with Indivisible North San Diego County and others are undaunted by the roadblocks Issa has put up to allow himself a safe space to spew RepubliFacts™. They are already organizing a protest at San Juan Hills High School.
The North County Congressman tried and failed in an effort to get local authorities to put a stop to the rallies:
Congressman Issa wrote two letters, on May 30 and June 21, urging the Vista mayor and city council to take action on the protests, saying protests posed “dangers for passing traffic” and made unsubstantiated — and disputed — claims that protestors damaged property.
The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties jumped into the picture as Vista officials sought to impose conditions on protesters, calling those actions “inappropriate and unconstitutional.” City officials threatened to deny access to the public sidewalk, restrict use of a sound system, and charge the permit holder fees for police services.
Following nationwide publicity, Vista officials backed down.
The protests ramped up again in as the GOP put their tax scam together:
Congressman Darrell Issa’s 49th District is one of a handful targeted nationally for a seven figure ad campaign by a coalition of groups demanding proposed changes to the tax code not provide giveaways to corporations and wealthy individuals.
The “Not One Penny” campaign will incorporate direct action and activism, building on the energy from last spring’s Tax March and the Our Lives on the Line national day of action in opposition to Trumpcare.
I certainly won’t forget getting to write the headline the day Issa–with a reported phone call to County Sheriff Bill Gore–cried ‘fowl:’
In keeping with their weekly theme, protest organizers obtained a 20-foot tall inflatable chicken, complete with Trump hair styling, and arranged for a plane to fly overhead towing a banner “Not One Penny in Tax Cuts for Issa and the 1%.”
The San Diego Sheriff’s Lieutenant at the scene was upset about the arrival of the chicken, which was tethered on the sidewalk, telling protest organizer Ellen Montanari “code enforcement” would be called as the inflatable fowl represented a public “hazard.” She indicated a willingness to speak with those officials but didn’t offer to remove the chicken.
Shortly thereafter, the street was blocked, by Sheriff’s Deputies doubled parked as they inspected parked vehicles along the road–many of which did belong to demonstrators–looking for excuses to write tickets. And citations were written… …for missing front license plates, wheels not turned enough to the curb to meet the deputies’ liking, and even to a passing motorist who –gasp!– honked her horn in solidarity with the demonstration.
Then there was the October 31 Halloween rally, with a tip of the hat to Issa’s 64th birthday the following day:
Congressman Darrell Issa got an early birthday present yesterday–he’s 64 today–from local activists, as more than six hundred people gathered outside his Vista office.
They were joined by Tom Steyer, in the news lately for shelling out $10 million to run TV ads calling for the impeachment of the president. This week’s rally, coming just one day after the Special Counsel’s first round of indictments, was Halloween-themed. The central premise was “we want a hero.”
In the coming weeks, protests at Issa’s office and around the country will shift the focus to the Republican tax plan, which they have yet to finish writing. Tax cuts for corporations and wealthy people are all set in stone; questions remain about who will be punished to pay for them.
On December 19 there was an Issa-versary rally:
They knew something had to be done, and Issa’s close call in the congressional election gave them hope and, most importantly, a tangible target to protest. His smirking and sneering leadership in Republican efforts to devalue the basic concepts of truth and fairness for partisan gain, his early embrace of a candidate who encouraged the worst in the American zeitgeist, and his confrontational style, all made him a logical choice.
One year later, Issa’s Vista office is the location of largest, most sustained weekly congressional protests in the nation. A core volunteer group of thirty oversees an average weekly attendance of close to 400 people. They show up at 10am and disperse one hour later. Every week. That’s what I call dedication.
Here’s a short time-lapse video of a typical event outside Issa’s office
A January 2 counter-demonstration, organized by a local affiliate of the California Military Officers Association (CALMOAA), which drew all of 18 people who stood across the street from the over 400 anti-Issa/Trump protesters.
Issa dashed across the street from his office to grant a TV interview, making sure to mention actress Jane Fonda’s contribution to a Political Action Committee –organized separately from the weekly protests– opposing his candidacy
On the way back to his offices, constituent Valerie McCourtney attempted to ask the Congressman about his position on reviving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program only to be threatened by Issa with arrest for trespassing.
The weekly rallies have continued since Issa announced he wasn’t running. One week they moved over to Oceanside to protest Republican Rocky Chavez’ connection with the National Rifle Association.
Last week, they came to downtown San Diego to join in protests outside a County Supervisors meeting where a decision was made to support the Trump administration’s war on immigrants.
Thank you all for the dedication and hard work over the past 65 weeks.
Say their names:
Metropolitan Nashville Police identified those killed Sunday as 29-year-old restaurant worker Taurean C. Sanderlin of Goodlettsville and three patrons: 20-year-old Joe R. Perez of Nashville, 23-year-old Akilah DaSilva of Nashville and 21-year-old DeEbony Groves of Gallatin, Tennessee.
The shooting that killed four and injured two innocent diners at a Nashville Waffle House – committed by a 29-year-old white man with an AR-15 – is the 182nd mass shooting in the United States since January 2009, and the 6th mass shooting this year.
Press accounts have been slow to pick up on the assailant’s self-declared history as a right-wing extremist, and seemingly oblivious to the fact that all the victims were people of color.
Once again, “well regulated militia” turns out to be a white man with an AR-15 and four Americans’ right to remain alive while eating waffles is overridden by his right to own a weapon of war as a pretend penis extension. #WaffleHouse
— Randi Mayem Singer (@rmayemsinger) April 22, 2018
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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