Claims of premeditation surround a fight that broke out during a town hall with California Rep. Katie Porter. Porter held the town hall in Irvine at Mike Ward Community Park, her first town hall in more than a year. Porter blames a Republican challenger to her re-election bid for posting on Instagram an invitation for his supporters to join him at the Sunday afternoon event.
Town halls often get rowdy and we only need to look back as recently as town halls during the Tea Party movement days beginning in 2009. The strategy used by Tea Partiers was to disrupt town hall events by confronting politicians loudly from the audience to garner attention. This usually happened as an audience member was denied an answer to a question. Town halls of both Republican and Democrat politicians were disrupted. It still happens. Katie Porter is the latest politician up for re-election to garner some publicity for her town hall.
Porter held the town hall in a park on a Sunday afternoon, hoping to turn it into a family-friendly event. Nothing like dragging the kiddos to a political campaign event for some early indoctrination, amirite? Porter pointed out that she, as a single mother, knows the difficulty of finding a babysitter. Democrat women like to pretend to be the people looking out for American families so her reasoning was on point. Last Thursday, a Republican challenger for the congressional seat held by Porter, Nick Taurus, posted an invitation for his supporters to join him at the event. The Instagram post included the words (all in caps) “CONFRONT KATIE PORTER!”
There is no indication that Taurus meant for his supporters to engage in a physical confrontation. Oddly, as Porter began to speak she instructed the crowd of “a few hundred people”, according to the L.A. Times, to ” try to keep your voices down and be quiet “. She said she wanted conversation, not loud voices. So, as she began to speak, supporters of Taurus interrupted.
The fracas occurred shortly after Porter began speaking to a crowd of a few hundred people at Mike Ward Community Park in Irvine. It was her first in-person town hall since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am so excited to be here with you all today. Thank you everyone for coming out to express your opinion,” she said. “This is an outdoor activity; we have a lot of wind. So I’m going to ask that everyone, regardless of your views, try to keep your voices down and be quiet so we can have a conversation.”
She added that as a mother of three, she had often worried about finding child care so she could attend such events, so she had directed her team to make the event family-friendly. Her staff handed out popcorn, snow cones and pocket copies of the Constitution to children.
“I’m really excited to have kids here with us today, and I want this to be a very family-friendly environment, even as we talk about the hard issues,” Porter said.
Protesters yelled, “Carpetbagger Katie!” and “Corrupt Katie Porter.” According to the L.A. Times story, it was Porter’s supporters who turned the event into one of punches being thrown as they confronted the protesters. Porter’s supporters tried to drown out the protesters’ chants. Porter is said to have tried to break up the fighting herself as she “rushed to the scuffle, wrapping her arms around an elderly woman near the scrum.” Irvine Police Department intervened and broke up the fight. No arrests were made but officers took a report of assault and battery. Injuries were described as minor.
What makes this story different from most that involve protesters at a town hall is that another candidate was involved. Taurus was at the event himself, along with his supporters. It is reported that he was in the fight that broke out. The reporting labels the protesters as Trump supporters. At the end of the event, Taurus led a chant, “America first! America first!”, and allegedly asked those in attendance if they were from America. His Instagram post included, “Katie Porter is a far-left ideologue supported by Bay Area academics, the billionaire class and foreign lobbies!”. “Her America Last policies are awful for the 45th district and we intend to voice our displeasure.”
The seat will be a hotly contested race, as Porter flipped the district from a longtime Republican district to Democrat in 2018. Now it is considered a swing district and a targeted race by national Republicans in 2022. So far there are no prominent challengers to Porter, though. She is described as a protege of Elizabeth Warren.
GOP officials argue that Porter, a darling of progressives, is too liberal for her swing district.
“Katie Porter and Democrats’ socialist agenda has caused everyday goods to cost more, created a border crisis and led to a rise in violent crime,” said Torunn Sinclair, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “It will cost her reelection.”
Porter released a statement after the town hall.
“It is disappointing that a small but vocal group of attendees, who advertised a ‘confrontation rally,’ created unsafe conditions at a planned family-friendly event,” Porter said in a statement. “While I absolutely respect their right to disagree, their disturbance disrespected all the families who attended and were ready to engage in a thoughtful, civil and safe way.
“My team and I are evaluating next steps, but my promise to Orange County families is that I will continue to hold town halls and to be in conversation with them.”
A town hall isn’t usually conducive to “conversations” but that seems to be what Porter is going with. In these deeply divided times, good luck with that.