- Associated Press - Friday, February 10, 2017

GREENSBORO, Ga. (AP) - Opponents of President Donald Trump turned a routine event with aides to three Republican lawmakers in Georgia on Friday into a stand against Trump’s policies.

Hundreds gathered at a “constituent service day” for U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson and U.S. Rep. Jody Hice in Greensboro, cheering as speaker after speaker railed against them and the Trump administration.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (https://bit.ly/2l2NGkI ) reports the three lawmakers were not at the meeting, which was designed to give residents a chance to discuss passport problems and Social Security claims. The half-dozen or so aides staffing the event were caught off guard by the size of the protest, and briefly walked out to chants of “Shame!”

The demonstration was the latest in a wave of national protests that have rocked the GOP after Trump’s inauguration.

“I’ve never called my congressman - ever - until four or five weeks ago,” said Ron Denham, who echoed many of the speakers in voicing complaints about getting busy signals or voicemail boxes when trying to contact their representatives. “These people need to represent us, and our voice needs to get louder and louder and louder.”

Democrats see the pressure as a sign of a nationwide awakening spurred by Trump’s inauguration. Millions protested in women’s marches across the nation on Jan. 21, while his immigration policy led to another round of rallies at airports. Now, Trump’s critics are transforming the typically low-key congressional events.

One California Republican needed a police escort to cut through a ring of protesters surrounding his event. And an angry crowd drowned out U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz at a town hall Thursday in Utah.

“This makes me very concerned for the country,” said Jay George, a Republican in Greensboro who sat through the protest, at times visibly upset with the speakers. “There are big differences of opinion in this country and they all need to be heard. But when this country has suffered for so long, we need to give Trump a chance to prove himself.”

Many Republicans have been dismissive of the movement. They say the Democratic groundswell will not connect with average voters in Georgia, which Trump won by 5 percentage points. Still, left-leaning groups across the state have reported a spike in donations, volunteers and potential candidates for elected office after Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

At least 200 people, many from metro Atlanta and Athens, packed the Greene County government building to unleash their frustration at Trump to GOP aides.

Among them was Caroline Keegan, a University of Georgia graduate student who said the $30,000 health care bill she tallied after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease was covered under the Affordable Care Act because she was under 26. But she worries how she’ll pay the $5,000 monthly bills when she graduates if Republicans dismantle the law.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to me,” Keegan said, adding: “I don’t know if I’ll be able to access my health care. I feel like I’m being condemned to choose between death and debt.”

Many other speakers were critical of Trump’s immigration policy, his Cabinet appointments and his foreign policy pronouncements. But the protesters saved their strongest words for GOP congressmen, who they said were failing to stand up to Trump.

Aides to the lawmakers scrambled to respond as the event drew national attention. Hice’s deputy, Josh Findlay, was sent back in the room to listen to each of the speakers, and he stood by the podium jotting down notes about each of their concerns. Outside the cramped room, staffers met in small groups with constituents and, later, some of the protesters.

Perdue spokeswoman Caroline Vanvick said the senator’s goal is to “help as many Georgians as possible who have casework concerns and need assistance dealing with federal agencies like so many of our veterans and seniors.”

She added, “If organized groups want to manufacture protests and continue to be disruptive, it will only deny those who really need help.”

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, https://www.ajc.com

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