I've been to plenty of Paul Ryan's so-called "listening sessions" in hometown Janesville over the years and knowing that those in attendance were mostly his committed supporters (hundreds of cousins) sprinkled with a few free thinkers like myself, the crowd reactions were often enthusiastic. But something was very different at his most recent listening session held at the Pontiac Center in Janesville.
When I arrived at the event, there were several police officers directing vehicles in the parking lot while there appeared to be two more watching the dozen protesters carrying signs on the nearby public sidewalk of the facility. After talking to a friend in the lot for a few minutes, I entered the facility a few minutes late passing a couple more plainclothes police officers in the lobby. Unfortunately, I missed the very beginning of the session where, according to the Janesville Gazette, a Janesville police official took the stage and gave district constituents a verbal warning that anyone speaking out of turn or ignoring their warning would be escorted out.
That explains why I felt constituents seemed to be raising their hands sheepishly like small children do in school after they have been scolded by a paddle waving teacher. Even the GOP's south-central propaganda machine and one of Ryan's most powerful media enablers in the district seemed surprised that there were no angry outbursts and only "smatterings" of polite applause, both for and against. These subdued and shackled reactions coming soon after Ryan proposed the starvation and eventual dismantlement of Medicare and Social security and his connections to hedge fund managers on Wall Street did not seem right, even from a typical Ryan majority Townhall. As reported in the Gazette, it turns out somebody deemed it necessary to assign 30 police officers for the event and also had a "wagon" bus ready to hold multiple arrests. That explains everything.
When people feel like they might be targeted by the local police if they utter a boo, move or say something they may not like or agree with at a Townhall - something is desperately wrong with our democracy. Clearly, many law-abiding citizens and peaceful protesters felt extra-conscious and unnerved by the heavy police presence. On the other hand, the Janesville police must know the obnoxious congressman provokes outrage. Why else would they think they needed 30 officers assigned to this event? For the twelve protesters peacefully assembled outside the door? Oh please.
Ironically, the penny-pinching conservatives at the Janesville Gazette made no mention about who will foot the bill for the estimated 60 man-hours of police security for the townhall meeting hosted by Ryan, who often detaches himself from local issues by referring to himself as a federal guy.
Unfortunately, if squelching dissent and natural public discourse was their goal, they've accomplished it in aces. However, this is no way to hold a townhall meeting where constituents attend and attempt to speak their minds freely without being in fear of being arrested. This will not likely change until Paul Ryan is removed from occupying our congressional district office.
Quote From The Gazette Comment Section...
YKM - "If only Paul Ryan would not have spent the last twelve years in Congress sponsoring and voting for tax exemptions, credits, loopholes, subsidies and tax shelters, he would not be here today under heavy police guard blaming government for leveraging winners over the losers with tax exemptions, credits, loopholes, subsidies and tax shelters."
Rock Netroots - Janesville Townhall Report
The Paul Ryan Watch - Elkhorn Townhall Report by Dave, Down With Tyranny