After coming up empty in their call for a bigger venue, Indivisible groups from across central Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District say they plan to picket GOP U.S. Rep. Scott Perry’s town hall meeting in Dauphin County on Tuesday night.
The rare — and free– public sit-down between the Freedom Caucus stalwart and voters in his now very purple district “sold out” almost as soon as it was announced last week. Almost immediately after that, progressives called for the session to be moved to a larger venue than its planned site — a volunteer fire hall in Hummelstown, Pa., outside Hershey.
Scores of Perry’s constituents signed onto an email requesting that larger venue. In his original announcement, Perry said the event would be limited to residents of his district, and that IDs would be checked to verify residency. The 6 p.m. meeting will also be live streamed on Perry’s Facebook page.
“Most of the folks that we are in touch with got the email notice of the town hall meeting on Tuesday about 9:07 a.m. That was the time stamped on the email,” Jan Jarrett of Capital Region Indivisible told PennLive last week. “A lot of people jumped right on it to register but when they tried to do that they got a message saying it had sold out but that they could get on a waitlist … Almost as soon as the email hit, it was already sold out.”
In a statement to PennLive, a Perry spokeswoman said the Republican’s first priority was “the safety and security of all attendees, and this event has been created with that in mind in concert with advice from US Capitol Police and the House Sergeant at Arms.
“We hope this environment may also facilitate a more constructive dialogue with our constituents, as, sadly, many groups around our Nation have looked at these forums as an opportunity to conduct political theater and shut down discourse. This is not the first, nor the last town hall, as the Congressman will continue to meet and interact with thousands of his constituents through a wide variety of forums,” the spokeswoman, Brandy Brown, told PennLive.
In an email to political reporters Monday, Jarrett said Indivisible groups will gather outside the fire hall at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, where they’ll hold up “signs featuring questions attendees want to ask the Congressman, signs with zip codes to identify attendees as constituents.”
Perry last held a public hall in Red Lion, York County, in 2017, where he faced an angry crowd. That venue held about 500 people. The one on Tuesday holds about 200, PennLive reported last week.
“We have waited more than two years for Perry to hold another town hall meeting,” Marlene Kanuck, chairwoman of Hershey Indivisible, said in a statement. “More than 500 people attended his last one in March 2017 so we expected he would offer a larger venue, like a school auditorium. Using the Hummelstown Fire Company, which can hold only 200, seems like an effort to limit the voices of constituents.”
Now that Perry has said “he plans many more small town halls to hear from constituents, so we urge him today to announce his town hall schedule for the remainder of the year,” Susan Roller, of Capital Region Indivisible’s leadership team, said in a statement.
“We know he can do that because there is the entire month of August as well as three more recess periods this year, and Congress has published its 2019 schedule, giving him many opportunities to schedule them. This will prove Rep. Perry is truly interested in hearing from more, not fewer, of his constituents,” Roller said.
Perry was first elected in 2012 in a district centered around York and Adams county. After the state struck down the last set of congressional maps as an illegal partisan gerrymander last year, Perry’s district was redrawn to include all of Harrisburg and its suburbs.
His district is a top target for Democrats in the 2020 election as they try to pad their majority in the House.