BOWLING GREEN — Nearly 100 northwest Ohioans converged on U.S. Rep. Bob Latta’s district office early today, angrily protesting several positions he has taken, or is contemplating, from the environment to immigration, and transgender issues.
They questioned Mr. Latta’s allegiance to Findlay-based Marathon Oil and its campaign contributions; why he hasn’t said much about the proposed NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline; where he stands on the future of Medicaid, Social Security, and other government programs, and why he is voting the party line for a Republican president they believe should be investigated by Congress for possible ties to Russia.
They also expressed deep concerns about Mr. Trump’s plan to build a multi-billion dollar wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying the money could be much better spent on upgrading U.S. infrastructure and that it is insulting to Mexicans.
“They really feel they need their voices heard by Congressman Latta,” organizer Betsey Davis of Perrysburg said as the first 15 people were allowed into the congressman’s office along North Main Street.
Once inside, the protesters — mostly older adults and senior citizens — rotated with those holding signs outside so more people could express their views with Mr. Latta’s district director, Andrew Lorenz.
The district office had no more than 25 people inside at a time.
Mr. Latta's spokesman, Drew Griffin, said in a prepared statement to The Blade that the congressman was unavailable for the meeting but "appreciates that these constituents met with his staff to discuss issues they are passionate about."
"Their input will be important as he serves Ohio’s 5th congressional district in Washington. Congressman Latta has worked to ensure safe drinking water for Ohioans, including authoring the Drinking Water Protection Act, which was signed into law last Congress after passing the House with huge, bipartisan support," the statement read.
Protesters knew going into the meeting that Mr. Latta had declined their invitation to meet with them, one of several times they said they have tried to arrange a face-to-face meeting.
They expressed their disgust anyway, especially when Mr. Lorenz acknowledged Mr. Latta is in the district today but wouldn’t tell them where.
“This is so insulting,” one of them fumed in the direction of Mr. Lorenz, asking how he justifies working for a congressman who won’t meet with them.
Mr. Lorenz took notes and assured residents the congressman’s office would get back to them with answers to their questions, but did not answer any directly that pertained to policy.
The meeting was arranged in advance by area residents loosely associated with what has become known as the Indivisible Movement, which states on its home page that it offers “a practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda.”
Ms. Davis said she is with Indivisible’s faction known as Maumee River Progressives.
She told Mr. Lorenz she wants to hold Mr. Latta accountable for supporting the Trump administration’s rollback of the stream protection rule, which she believes will allow the coal industry to recklessly rid itself of its coal slurry waste and endanger rivers and streams used for drinking water.
Sue Brotje of Perrysburg opened the meeting by asking why Mr. Latta remains so pro-agriculture, especially after high-profile incidents such as the 2014 Toledo water crisis and the ongoing contamination of Flint’s water pipes.
“Protection of our waterways is not a partisan issue,” Ms. Brotje said.
The Rev. Carl Miller of Luckey, Ohio, said Mr. Latta should embrace technology that helps get America off fossil fuels.
“We can’t keep polluting. Why is there cancer and heart disease? It’s because of the poisons we put into the air and water,” Reverend Miller said.
Nearly all who spoke claimed to be residents of Mr. Latta’s 14-county congressional district.
One exception was Cecelia Johnson of Toledo, who said Mr. Latta’s decision to side with the Trump administration’s opposition to climate change and support of Scott Pruitt for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator is wrong. Mr. Pruitt’s opposition to climate change research has drawn national attention from his critics.
“This is absolutely immoral,” Ms. Johnson said, referring to mixed messages her daughter, Beth Johnson, is getting as a student at the College of Wooster. “As a college senior, she is facing a government opposed to everything she has learned [about climate change] in college.”
Several people called the Trump administration’s immigration policy inhumane, saying they believe it is resulting in many peace-loving, productive families being torn apart.
Gwen Andrix, a self-described transgender resident of Bowling Green, said the Affordable Care Act that Mr. Latta and the Trump administration want to destroy will devastate the transgender population.
Ms. Andrix said she lost she job and insurance in 2007 because of her transgender identity.
“As a transgender person, they will not insure you,” Ms. Andrix said.
She called the Trump administration’s decision this week to rescind federal rules on bathrooms for transgender students “state-sanctioned child abuse of transgender people.”
Long-time activist Joann Schvione of Walbridge called Mr. Trump’s embrace of Russia “treason.”
Greg Fess of Toledo said he is disappointed Mr. Latta supports legislation that could make it easier for people with mental illness to own handguns.
“I can only assume the NRA has influence over our congressman that is undue,” he said.
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