Activists say Rubio "town hall" absence is a no-show, Rubio staff begs to differ

click to enlarge A Facebook user posted this ad poking fun at Rubio, which appears to have run in the Palm Beach Post. The group that sponsored the ad calls itself Speaking up for America.
A Facebook user posted this ad poking fun at Rubio, which appears to have run in the Palm Beach Post. The group that sponsored the ad calls itself Speaking up for America.

This week, Congress is on recess, that magical time when U.S. Senators and Representatives leave D.C. with the expectation that they'll go to their home districts and states to hear the concerns of the common man. Or something.

Some are doing that. Some aren't. It's up to them, really; they're the ones that have to calculate whether or not showing up will affect their chances of reelection/successfully running for higher office.

In the Tampa Bay area, activists critical of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's performance are having a "town hall" of their own. It was organized by members of Indivisible, the local chapter of a national group that has been organizing protests and flooding town hall meetings (like this one) in an effort to sway elected officials to use their votes to oppose much of President Trump's actions over the past month, and to draw media attention to lawmakers' decisions as well as their responses to questions.

While organizers are painting Wednesday's Tampa town hall as a no-call, no-show on the senator's part, Rubio's staff begs to differ.

Here's what Matt Wolking, a spokesman for Rubio, had to say via an emailed statement:

“As part of the strategy of disruption outlined in their online activist manual, the organizers are deceiving people by falsely advertising this event, which is not connected to us in any way. The protesters – some of whom failed to show up for meetings they scheduled with our staff – continue to fundraise off of it even though we informed them days ago Senator Rubio will not be there. We have been fully accessible and responsive to constituents, and our staff has already met with dozens of these liberal activists at our offices across Florida. As their manual reveals, their goal is to stage a hostile atmosphere, record themselves booing no matter what is said, and refuse to give up the microphone. That is not a true or constructive dialogue.”

Indeed, activists from Indivisible and other groups are the ones that organized the event and invited Rubio; it wasn't Rubio's staff.

But it was Rubio's office that turned down the invitation—an outcome the event's organizers probably expected.

In recent weeks, activists have been flooding the sidewalk that lines the building that houses Rubio's Tampa satellite office, holding placards and imploring him to listen to their concerns. Some have met with staff to express their concerns and deliver petitions, but have expressed doubt over whether Rubio is listening. In recent weeks, they've faced the threat of being cited for trespass when they have tried to meet with staffers in his office.

The event is scheduled to take place Wednesday night between 7 and 9 p.m. at Letter Carriers Hall ay 3003 W. Cypress St. in Tampa.

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