Constituents hold signs in disagreement with U.S. Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ 7) during a town hall event at a community college in Branchburg, New Jersey, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter – RTSZWDU
Leaked audio from an anti-Trump protest group meeting reveals activists with anti-Trump group Indivisible plotting how to best manufacture a hostile environment at a town hall with Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana on Friday.
The audio, obtained by local radio station KPEL, reveals a coordinated effort to create the public impression that Cassidy’s support for Trump is unpopular with his constituents. The activists, who describe themselves as liberals in the audio, can be heard strategizing how to best turn a local town hall into a political victory.
The activists split up into an “inside team” — tasked with occupying “as many seats as we can” and an “outside team,” whose job was to “give [the media] the coverage they want” before joining the others inside.
The activists strategized how best to “dominate” the question-and-answer section of the town hall and keep anyone “sympathetic” to Cassidy from asking a question.
The audio also reveals the activists laughing about “the poor people of Breaux Bridge” — local constituents — who might get stuck behind them. Local news coverage of the town hall said that “many attendees were turned away” from the town hall due to “capacity restrictions.”
Matthew Schoenberger, of New Orleans, shouts a question at Republican U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy during a town hall meeting in Metairie, Louisiana, U.S. February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman – RTSZW2O
“Game plan number one is to fill as many seats as we can, right? If it’s all of us in there and the poor people of Breaux Bridge are sitting behind us, well then tough luck for them,” said one organizer, identified by KPEL as James Proctor. His “poor people” comment drew laughs from the other activists.
“If we can arrange it so he doesn’t hear one sympathetic question–great. That only magnifies our impact,” Proctor said.
Local news outlet The Advertiser reported that members of the crowd “frequently interrupted, expressing disagreement with some of Cassidy’s positions and shouting out their own questions.”
KPEL identified Proctor as the leader of Indivisible Acadiana, a local branch of the national Indivisible organization, which has organized hostile Republican town halls all around the country. One woman can be heard on the audio saying she was in contact with the national Indivisible organization. The group did not return an email seeking comment.
“The outside team will join the inside team in the hall after media coverage,” Proctor states at one point. “So what we’ll do is we’ll try to dominate enough, because–remember, the camera people especially are looking for some ‘b-roll’ and some quotes.”
“They’ve got three or four things to cover that day, this is just one of them,” Proctor said of media covering the town hall. “So we make sure we give them the coverage they want, and then everyone breaks and goes inside.”
Video from outside the event posted on YouTube shows protesters chanting, “Love not hate, that’s what makes America great.” One woman appears to be reading the chant from a script.