FREMONT, Ohio (CNN) – Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan acknowledged protesters outside two events in his home district Monday — a break with many other Capitol Hill colleagues who have largely avoided such scenes — but was met with shouts of disapproval. The Ohio Republican, a 10-year veteran of the House and one of its most ardent conservatives, spoke with what his staff and protesters estimated were upward of 150 demonstrators in Marion, Ohio, at the historic home of former President Warren G. Harding. He then headed about an hour north where he talked briefly with a much smaller group of protesters at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library in Fremont, Ohio, before heading into a presidential trivia contest for children (which prompted his former Democratic opponent to claim he was using the kids as “human shields”).
Jordan’s tour of his sprawling Ohio district Monday showed the dilemma for lawmakers eyeing up a repeat of the tea party protests which swept Democrats out of power in Congress in 2010 — but with the fire and the threat coming from the left this time. And it also shows how deep the anger has bled into staunchly conservative territory. Jordan beat his Democratic opponent 68 percent-32 percent last year and President Donald Trump won the district by a similar margin. The first hint of trouble for Republicans came two weeks ago, when Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz was confronted by hundreds of angry protesters at his town hall. Since then, Republican lawmakers have canceled town halls, while others have split town entirely — heading on Congressional delegation trips to spots like the Mexican border and Europe. Meanwhile, some Republicans have fully embraced the fury: Rep. Mark Sanford huddled hundreds of protesters at his South Carolina town hall this past weekend, even walking outside to address an overflow crowd.
Jordan didn’t give it the “Full Sanford” Monday, but he did attempt some outreach — with varying success.
“They may not agree with me, we may share different perspectives,” Jordan said, as a group of protesters laughed outside the Hayes Library. (“No, we don’t agree with you,” yelled one woman, interrupting Jordan.)
“But they’re allowed under the first amendment to speak up, and my job is to listen and tell them where I’m at,” Jordan said, which resulted in one man mocking him: “Listen and give the party line, no real reasons, no in-depth analysis.”
The sight of hundreds of protesters packed outside the Harding presidential home earlier in the day was compelling enough, Jordan said, for him to take questions from the angry crowd. But protesters claimed they had to force him to address them. As Harding Home director Sherry Hall attempted to read through a history of Harding from the wraparound porch, with Jordan by her side, angry protesters chanted at the “Stop Reading!” and yelled “Hold a town hall!” according to video of the event taken by one group of protesters. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell implored his Republican colleagues last week to face protesters and address them (even though he isn’t hosting any town halls himself — opting instead for a trio of closed-door fundraisers).
But the House of Representatives’ chief security officer urged House lawmakers to coordinate police protection for their public events while they were back in their home states. (A pair of Fremont police cars pulled up to Jordan’s second event, but the small number of police just watched while a few dozen protesters milled around outside.)
The showdowns are likely to be a common sight this week — with town halls in Arkansas, New Jersey and Florida acting like magnets for irate Democrats and even some independents who stayed out of politics until Trump took the White House.
Cheryl Laugherty, 62, a retired librarian from Fremont, Ohio, said she didn’t get active in protesting until Trump emerged as a force last year. Since his election, she’s been organizing with other women in northwest Ohio, and stood with a small group protesting Jordan in Fremont.
“It’s been off and on through the years, but his (Trump’s) behavior on the campaign trail this year just clinched it for me. I could not tolerate the way, like he made fun of the handicapped columnist, just things he said,” Laugherty said. “And it hasn’t changed, the belittling of people and the nicknames. It’s juvenile. It’s juvenile bullying.”
Jordan said Monday that it’s up to other Republicans to decide what they want to do, but suggested they honor the First Amendment and hear out the protesters. But Laugherty and others gathered outside the Hayes home Monday quickly pointed out that Jordan has yet to schedule any town halls himself.
Elaine Blanchard with Memphis Police Director Michael Ralllings at Blanchard’s church last year.(Photo: courtesy of Elaine Blanchard)
Elaine Blanchard is an ordained minister and a proud graduate of the Memphis Police Department’s Clergy Police Academy. Last fall, she welcomed Police Director Michael Rallings as a guest for a Wednesday evening meal at Shady Grove Presbyterian Church.
“Our police officers have such a difficult job. They all need our help,” said Blanchard, who posted a photo of her and Rallings on her Facebook page. She also officiated the wedding of a woman who works for Mayor Jim Strickland. The mayor was in attendance.
“He seems like a nice man,” she said.
Last week, she learned via Facebook that she is one of 81 people who can’t enter City Hall without a police escort. She also learned that she’s one of 43 people barred from visiting Strickland’s home.
“This grammie is a gangsta!” the 5-4, gray-haired grandmother joked on her Facebook page over the weekend. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so absurd.
Blanchard has never been arrested. She’s never been to the mayor’s home. She can’t remember if she’s ever been to City Hall. How did she end up on City Hall’s list of security risks, or the mayor’s list of persona non grata? How did so many others? Why does such a list even exist?
Police aren’t saying. The mayor says he didn’t know about the list even though it bears his signature. The mayor says he did sign an “authorization of agency” form Jan. 4 a list of people he has ordered to stay off his personal property.
In December, a group of protesters organized a “die-in” on his lawn and video showed some peeking through his windows. But many, if not most, of the 43 people on the list Strickland signed did not participate in the “die-in.” That includes Blanchard.
“I would never have done that,” she said. “I felt sorry for the mayor when I heard about that one. It was wrong to do that at his home.”
Blanchard did participate in a public protest last year. That seems to be the only common denominator among most of the people on the list. That might explain why there’s more than one list, as The Commercial Appeal’s Ryan Poe reported Friday.
Memphis City Hall requires police escort for Darrius Stewart’s mother, protesters
The first list is dated Jan. 4 and names 43 people including Blanchard “barred from the premises” of Strickland’s home who “also have to be escorted while in City Hall.”
It doesn’t explain why. But those on the list have participated in one or more recent nonviolent public protests at the Mississippi River bridge, Overton Park, Graceland, Valero refinery, or elsewhere. Strickland’s signature is on all four pages of the list. But three of the pages include Lt. Anthony Bonner’s handwritten note that those on the list “have to be escorted while in City Hall.”
It’s unclear whether the notes were added before of after Strickland’s signatures. The second list is dated Jan. 17 and names 14 people who “have to be escorted at all times while inside City Hall.” It also doesn’t explain why.
Seven of the names are listed as white females; six as white males; one as a black female. The list was signed by Police Lt. Albert Bonner. The third list seems to present some legitimate and specific concerns. It’s called “City Hall escort list” and it’s undated and unsigned. It names 27 people and adds a brief description or reason why each person is on the list. Fifteen are listed as “former employee.”
A dozen others are identified with words like “threats,” “harassment,” or “disorderly conduct” and “vandalism.” One is identified as “Order of Protection.”
Why aren’t the first two lists more specific? Why are public protesters considered a security risk at City Hall?
“It implies that everyone on the list is somehow a threat to city officials,” said Jayanni Webster, a 27-year-old honors graduate of UT-Knoxville. “It’s very upsetting.”
Webster, a community organizer, was one of six protesters handcuffed, detained and cited for blocking the road in front of Graceland last July. Blanchard joined a demonstration outside Graceland in August. It was during the annual candlelight vigil for Elvis. The next day, two local legislators Rep. G.A. Hardaway and Sen. Lee Harris complained that police kept black protesters behind barricades while allowing white protesters free movement.
Blanchard told the press that she agreed.
“I threw my leg over the barricade and a Graceland security officer came over and gave me a hand, lifted my elbow and helped me over the barricade,” she told The Commercial Appeal.
“The police could clearly see that a white woman who had been with the protesters was climbing over the barricade, and no one stopped me.”
Blanchard figures that her public complaint is why her name is on the City Hall security list. She hadn’t thought about going to City Hall anytime soon, but now she feels sort of obligated. Tuesday afternoon, she plans to attend a protest being called the “Weigh In at City Hall.”
First she’ll have to find her way there.
“I’m not even sure which building it is,” she said. “But once I get there, maybe they’ll show me around.”
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Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 @ 4:25 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 @ 5:35 AM
UPDATE @ 5:35 a.m.
Springfield police said one suspect is in custody and a second is on the run following an early morning shooting on North Florence Street Tuesday. The victim, only identified as a man, was transported by CareFlight to Miami Valley Hospital for treatment, but his condition is unknown. One suspect has been taken into custody for questioning, and officers said they are looking for a second person they believe was involved. Investigators did not release a description of the second suspect.
Police said the incident began as a dispute, but additional details were not immediately available.
Springfield police are investigating reports of a man shot on North Florence Street early Tuesday morning. The incident was first reported around 4:10 a.m. in the 200 block of North Florence Street. Initial reports indicate the victim was sitting in a vehicle and was shot in the chest.
The condition of the victim and the severity of his injuries was not immediately known. A CareFlight medical helicopter has been dispatched to meet medics at Springfield Regional Medical Center, according to scanner traffic. We have a crew heading to the scene and we ll update this page when new information becomes available.