(Link to original livestream with comments.)
Republican Congressman Tom MacArthur, representing New Jersey’s third congressional district, has avoided in-person town halls because he doesn’t “want to be baited into having an event that some outside group can just make a spectacle out of.” Instead, he has held two telephone-only “tele” town halls in recent weeks, which, according to first-hand accounts, have been highly filtered affairs, where a single person asks a question, the congressmen answers, no follow ups are allowed, and no interaction between participants is possible. Constituents in Marlton protested by holding their own in-person town hall that MacArthur himself did not attend.
MacArthur is holding an in-person town hall on Monday night, 7 miles from the east coast in an approximately 50 mile wide district (going from only a few miles away from Philadelphia, all the way to the coast). The town hall, first announced Friday morning, is scheduled to start at 6:30, with doors opening at 5:30, in a room having a capacity of 250. People must RSVP, and among those who RSVP, it is first come, first served.
A carpenters union and the New Jersey Second Amendment Society (NJ2AS), a second amendment advocacy group, have both posted an event called “The town hall to support Representative MacArthur.” The carpenter’s union event, posted by Carpenters Local # 255 of South Jersey, is scheduled to start at 5pm, a full hour-and-a-half before the official start time.
The NJ2AS article states:
“Congressman Tom MacArthur, the first and only NJ Congressman to support the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (HR38) so far, supported us when no one else would. Now it’s our turn to support him. As you may have seen on the news, town halls across the country have been raucous events full of bussed in members of the opposition sent there to harass their Congressman. We’re not going to let them outnumber us though. [W]e’re asking that hundreds of our supporters arrive to the townhall [sic] to be there inside and outside the event to let Tom AND the media know, that we support him…. We’re going to show groups across the country how to fight back against these organized protestors sent in to harass our members of Congress.”
The National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (HR38) is a bill that allows anyone to carry a concealed firearm in a state whose laws allow it, regardless which state they reside in, and regardless the laws in their home state. MacArthur has sponsored the bill, which has only been introduced.
So a union is planning on arriving very early, in as large numbers as possible, at a venue with a capacity of 250 in a district of 732,000 people. Additionally, a second amendment advocacy group is planning on attending in the “hundreds,” explicitly to “fight back against these organized protesters.” It seems that anyone who gets even mildly upset at MacArthur has already been accused as being someone who is not a constituent of, and has explicitly come to harass, the congressman.
Though clearly intended as intimidation against those wanting to challenge the representative, New Jersey’s gun laws are among the most strict in the country (although are set to be significantly overridden by this potential new law). This along with the expected level of security at events of this type, both inside and out, the likeliness of guns being brandished during the event are low.
To close with an opinion: As it relates to the difficulties congressmen have faced at recent town halls, one complaint I’ve heard that I believe has some merit, is how some protesters seem to want to simply vent their frustrations at the Trump administration and the Republican takeover of Congress. The more concrete and actionable people’s requests are, the better chance they have at being effective, and not being framed in a negative light. You can be angry, you can express that anger, and you can express it forcefully. But unless you express it with peace, and respect for the person you’re addressing, you lose.
Citizens’ Media TV will be covering the event live starting at 4pm.
Update 3/6/2014: To better reflect my opinion in the final paragraph.
Update 3/7/2014: NJ2AS has removed the “fight back” sentence from their website.
– By Jeff Epstein