Severe weather conditions did not stop hundreds from gathering at Sunday’s town hall meeting at East Providence High School. Rhode Islanders gathered to discuss ongoing issues affecting the Ocean State with Democratic R.I. Congressmen Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline ’83. Holding signs displaying “Persist!” and “Stay Human,” crowd members were quick to demand answers from their elected officials.
The town hall meeting centered around the fate of the Affordable Care Act, protecting the environment, increasing the minimum wage and organizing movements to resist President Donald Trump’s executive orders on legal grounds.
From the start, the crowd voiced frustration with the state’s political leaders. Reed, while testing out the microphone, asked the audience if he was loud enough to be heard — “you need to be louder in Washington too,” one protester shouted in response.
Sharing the crowd’s tone of frustration, Langevin encouraged community engagement and vowed to represent R.I. voters. “We’re upset, we’re angry at where the president is trying to lead our country and we’re not just going to sit back and take it,” Langevin said.
One audience member urged lawmakers to make Rhode Island a leader of the wind-power industry while also expressing concern about fracking and climate change. Though Whitehouse committed to fight climate change, he declined to place any political pressure on the deciding committee on fracking and said he supported infrastructure expansion. Additionally, Whitehouse said he had not made a decision regarding former Sen. Dan Coats’ nomination as Director of National Intelligence, resulting in an uproar from the crowd.
“Just say no!” the audience chanted.
A son and grandson of refugees who fled Nazi Germany, one audience member asked the officials to demand the president’s resignation and the appointment of a Democrat as vice president. The room erupted in applause.
Citing the 25th Amendment as a precedent — when Nelson Rockefeller filled the position as vice president following the 1964 resignation of former President Richard Nixon — the voter went on to plead for government unity.
Reed rejected such a proposal based on constitutionality. “Yes, he has to go, but we have to recognize, ultimately we are serving the constitution,” Reed said.
Whitehouse also encouraged legal and constitutional methods of resistance, primarily stating the Democratic Party’s focus on the 2018 election. “Short of impeachment, the real way to rebuke this guy is to take back (the U.S. House of Representatives) in a flood,” Whitehouse said.
Given U.S. District Court Judge James Robart’s halt on the enforcement of Trump’s order Feb. 3, Cicilline noted the importance of the judiciary in limiting the president’s power. Trump’s remarks of “fake news” and “so-called judge” at Robart’s expense are Trump’s ways of attempting to delegitimize the two institutions that hold him accountable, Cicilline said.
Following the town hall meeting, some audience members said they felt more assured of the progress being made in Washington.
“I feel better being here but it’s not necessarily (because of) what my democratically elected leaders have said — it’s seeing the energy in the crowd,” said audience member Mandy Jordan.
Correction: A previous version of this article mislabeled U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline ’83 as state representatives. In fact, they are U.S. representatives. The Herald regrets the error.