Yesterday, seven unemployed constituents of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) staged a sit-in at his office in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to protest the congressman’s decision not to hold any free public town halls during the August recess. An additional 100 protesters picketed outside the office. Politico reported this week that Ryan, Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, will only speak to residents who are willing to pay $15 for access.
It’s customary for representatives to host free town halls open to the public so constituents can ask questions and weigh in on their elected officials’ votes. But Ryan and other conservative congressman who have been facing angry crowds recently have decided to limit their availability to only those willing to open their wallets. This didn’t sit well with many of Ryan’s constituents who are struggling just to get by and don’t think they should have to pay to get an audience with their congressman:
Ryan is currently vacationing with his family, but the seven individuals sitting in his office say they have all tried to contact Ryan, multiple times, and have received the same generic email response. Traditionally when members of Wisconsin’s Congressional Delegation break for the August recess they hold town hall meetings where they listen to concerns off constituents in their districts. Ryan, so far, has only scheduled one “public” appearance at the Whitenall Park Rotary September 6 banquet. Attendees will be required to pay a $15 fee to be one of the lucky 300 to meet with the Representative. I spoke with four of the Ryan Seven this afternoon and they all said they were planning to stay “as long as it takes.”
One of the protesters, Scott Page, says he’s been let go from two jobs in the past two years. One position was outsourced to Mexico, and for the second, he was required to train an individual in China to be his replacement. Page said he hoped Ryan would “have a heart” and “take time to listen to the unemployed in his backyard instead of only the business owners.” “I don’t have $15 to ask Rep. Ryan questions,” he added, “so I guess this is the only means I have to talk to him.” Several of the protesters have posted testimonial videos on the Wisconsin Jobs Now website. Unemployment in Ryan’s home state has been growing recently.
Instead of meeting with the protesters, Ryan’s staff called the police. The seven protesters occupying Ryan’s office left the building last night after negotiations with police to end the sit-in peacefully. The seven praised Ryan’s office staff for being “amazing” and “polite,” but had no warm words for Ryan.