Citing security concerns Utah GOP advises against town hall meetings

Audience members question Rep. Chris Stewart about plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act at a town hall meeting Tuesday sponsored by the Dixie Republican Forum, St. George, Utah, Jan. 31, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Due to concerns over alleged “recent acts of intimidation and violence,” the Utah GOP asked the state’s congressional delegation last week to either delay holding town hall meetings or hold tele-town halls instead.

The state GOP repeated those concerns again Monday, citing an advisory from the House Sergeant at Arms last Thursday telling members of Congress to maintain “enhanced security awareness.”

The advisory comes in the wake of raucous town hall meetings in which House Republicans have been blasted in their home districts over potentially getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. Some cases have also involved a general opposition toward other objectives of President Donald Trump and his administration.

FILE- In this Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, a person supporting Planned Parenthood looks on during Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s town hall meeting at Brighton High School in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

“This advisory comes after multiple accounts of disruptive behavior from town hall attendees primarily targeting congressional Republicans including Utah’s own Rep. Jason Chaffetz,” Utah GOP Chair James Evans said in the statement released Monday.

This week is what is generally referred to as a “district work period” in which members of Congress return to their native turf and tend to hold town hall meetings or similar events with constituents.

Chaffetz held a town hall meeting Feb. 9 at Brigham High School in Cottonwood Heights that was packed and overflowing. Over 1,000 made it into the town hall meeting while several hundred more were stuck outside, according to Fox 13 News.

Chaffetz was meeting with angry constituents who disrupted and booed him. One man asked Chaffetz why he would call Trump “despicable,” and yet the Ethics Committee does not investigate him. This question drew the biggest outcry from the crowd, Fox 13 reported.

At that point, those inside started chanting at Chaffetz to “Do your job, do your job, do your job.”

While the commotion unfolded inside, hundreds of people were kept outside due to fire code regulations.

As for disruptions and suspect activity at the event, one incident involved a woman who was arrested for rushing police and trying to get inside the school. Another incident involved individuals who were openly carrying sidearms while trying to start a scene, Cottonwood Heights Police told Fox 13 News

While openly carrying a firearm in Utah is legal, two to three armed individuals using bandannas to cover the lower part of their faces tried to get the crowd to rush the police once they closed the doors to the school.

People weren’t having it, for the most part everyone was very kind with us, a lot of people shook our hands,” Cottonwoods Heights Police Lt. Dan Bartlett told Fox 13 News. When police were made aware of the men and began to approach them, the men left the area. Officers did not pursue the men and no arrests were made.

In a press conference last week, the Utah GOP accused a group called Utah Indivisible for hijacking Chaffetz’s town hall meeting by sending an “organized mob” meant to sow disruption and chaos. The Utah GOP also compiled a list of alleged acts of intimidation and violence they accused the group of committing at the Chaffetz town hall.

Utah Indivisible organizers responded to the Utah Republican Party in a Facebook Live stream and rejected the party’s claims.

“We have been monitoring the social media pages of ‘leftist groups’ who are actively identifying, plotting, and recruiting, for the sole purpose of targeting Utah’s own Republican elected officials if they have scheduled town hall meetings or other public events,” Evans said in Monday’s statement.

These groups are seeking an opportunity to flood these events with their own activists who have historically displayed disruptive and disorderly behavior,” he continued.

The Utah GOP also accused the Utah Democratic Party of taking part in organizing protest mobs.

Lauren Littlefield, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, issued a response to the claim:

The Utah Democratic Party doesn’t condone all of the behavior displayed at Congressman Chaffetz’s recent town hall meeting, but the accusation that Utah Democrats organized an angry mob is ludicrous and an ‘alternative fact.’ We are not currently working with Utah Indivisible though we do appreciate the immense grassroots organization that has sprung up since the Nov. 8 Election.

Another example the Utah GOP gave of groups allegedly causing trouble was an incident in California earlier this month involving Rep. Tom McClintock. According to the Washington Examiner, McClintock required a police escort after a town hall meeting due to concerns over a group of people demonstrating outside the town hall.

The issue of protesters at congressional Republican town halls has even caught the attention of President Trump, who took to Twitter (to the surprise of no one), posting: “The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!”

Audience members questioned Rep. Chris Stewart about plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act at a town hall meeting Tuesday sponsored by the Dixie Republican Forum, St. George, Utah, Jan. 31 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

If Utah’s congressional delegation begins to hold more tele-town hall meetings as the Utah Republican Party advises, it will be nothing new for some of them. Sen. Mike Lee has held them since 2013, with the next one scheduled for March 8. More information can be found on the senator’s website.

Rep. Chris Stewart also recently held a tele-town hall meeting hosted by the Dixie Republican Forum. While appearing via video feed, the Republican congressman was still hammered by a mix of constituents over concerns related to the potential repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

“Utahns are well known for their civility, respect for their fellow citizens, elected officials and law enforcement,” Evans said. “What we are witnessing is not representative of Utah values, instead it is merely left-wing ideologists attempting to force their rhetoric on a population that has already made their decision at the ballot box.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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  • dhamilton2002 February 21, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    The GOP only likes civil discourse if it is with those whom they agree. Anyone who doesn’t support their policies they ignore or disparage.


    • comments February 22, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      Do all you mormons realize that your beloved Orrin hatch has now been your senator over 40 years?!!! Disgusting!

      • comments February 22, 2017 at 4:37 pm

        You mormons officially have 0 right to complain about corrupt career politicians. Your mormon senator is the worst offender. 40 solid years of self-serving corruption. hahahah

        • comments February 22, 2017 at 4:38 pm

          He’s probably got a billion dollars socked away from all those bribes and kickbacks. after 40 years(!!!) he easily could.

          • mesaman February 22, 2017 at 8:56 pm

            Enter; The local whinos. Oh if only he had a brain.

        • .... February 22, 2017 at 11:53 pm

          and another one of Bob’s stupid comments

  • Rainbow Dash February 21, 2017 at 10:19 pm


    This article raises an interesting question, maybe one of you can answer for me,
    Why does a bunch of Americans telling you to do the job we hired you to do scare you?

    • Brian February 22, 2017 at 9:16 am

      You do realize we just went through 8 years of the most tone-deaf administration in US history, right? This isn’t an (R) or (D) problem, it’s a politician problem. That’s why an independent, honest media asking hard-hitting questions was so important. That’s now dead forever (also killed in the last 8 years).

      • Bender February 22, 2017 at 11:22 am

        You confuse rejection of your extreme worldview with tone deafness.

  • Bender February 21, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    Republicans scared of unhappy constituents. Prefer only Fox News interviews. Sad.

    • Utahguns February 22, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      Nope. The problem is the radical, violent left that doesn’t want to hear another side of the story. They’d rather yell, destroy personal property, burn and stomp on the American flag and use violent tyrannical means to get their point across.
      Conservatives don’t resort to these means, they just quietly carry (*their concealed firearms) and are ready to step up when the Flag, the Constitution and our God is under attack.

      *I know this will get the ire of you progressive liberals. Enjoy it.

      • Bender February 22, 2017 at 2:15 pm

        So everyone left of you is radical, violent, anarchist, flag hating, atheist and a liberal progressive? OK got it.

        • Utahguns February 22, 2017 at 4:10 pm

          I hardly think that not one radical, violent, anarchist, flag hating, atheist and a liberal progressive voted Republican, right?

          • Bender February 22, 2017 at 5:49 pm

            Small comfort to know you are packing and are convinced guns will save the republic.

      • Rainbow Dash February 22, 2017 at 3:12 pm

        You say the “radical, violent left…[would]rather yell, destroy personal property, burn and stomp on the American flag and use violent tyrannical means to get their point across.”

        Conservatives don’t resort to these means,” you assert, “they just quietly carry (*their concealed firearms) and are ready to step up when the Flag, the Constitution and our God is under attack.

        I guess you’ve forgotten about the time Cliven Bundy and his band of right-wing cowards and wannabe soldiers took over a bird sanctuary in Oregon. What part of the Flag, Constitution or God was “under attack” then?

        • Rainbow Dash February 22, 2017 at 3:20 pm

          I’ll never forget the time that a former Arizona sheriff bragged to Fox News that “he and other protestors”were planning to put women in the front at Bundy ranch in 2014
          Here’s proof
          Here’s further proof

  • Bender February 22, 2017 at 12:07 am

    Bender recommends the Utah Legislature fund safe spaces for our delicate congressmen. These hideaways would be staffed by sycophant college republican volunteers and only allow Fox News, Infowars and Breitbart internet access. Will someone please think of the pain these brave men and woman must be suffering right now?????

    • mesaman February 22, 2017 at 8:59 pm

      Better still fund corrals for the lunatic fringe that was once the democrat party.

  • Audrey Chick February 22, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Let’s be honest. The angry crowd at Jason Chaffetz’ town hall meeting were there to make sure no one opposing their liberal agenda was able to speak. Or, should we have followed the example of the hired opposition and brought guns and dressed up as cowboy outlaws, which was done by Chaffetz’s town hall distractors?

    • Bender February 22, 2017 at 9:42 am

      So anyone who is not on board with Chaffetz is a liberal and opposition crowds always contain paid actors? I’m guessing Trump got your vote.

      • Utahguns February 22, 2017 at 1:38 pm

        Trump got the American vote as well. That’s what counts.
        Deal with it.
        Accept it.
        Your party and your candidate was too corrupt and evil.

        • Bender February 22, 2017 at 2:11 pm

          My party? Which party would that be?

        • Rainbow Dash February 22, 2017 at 3:22 pm

          “Trump got the American vote as well. That’s what counts”.


          A majority of Americans (millions more in fact) voted for Hilary Clinton.

          • Utahguns February 22, 2017 at 4:32 pm

            Wow, I’ve uncovered two radical snowflakes….

          • comments February 22, 2017 at 5:02 pm

            I’m ashamed to say that I voted Hillary, not that I supported a majority of her positions, but that I despise the republican party, and now I despise the democrats after figuring out they are no different from republicans. All of them are horrible. I hope Trump succeeds. deport deport deport. LOL

          • ladybugavenger February 22, 2017 at 6:46 pm

            Bob, I can’t believe you admitted that LOL. I hate politics that’s why I voted for Trump. Close the borders, protect Americans, deport illegals…no more special treatment to illegals!

            Politics is politics, dirty rotten scoundrels but if he can accomplish one campaign promise, he’s a success.

            I’ve never seen so many people against a President fulfilling his campaign promises lol

          • Rainbow Dash February 22, 2017 at 9:29 pm

            If using things like verifiable facts to counter your hypocritical rhetoric makes me a “radical snowflake” than I say….


            Have a nice day. 🙂

  • Henry February 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Townhall meetings are a valuable means for both citizens to air their concerns and politicians to get face-to-face feedback. It’s obvious that leftist groups are targeting town halls as a means to bloviate – but that’s their right, as long as they don’t try to take over the meeting and aren’t a security threat.

    Continue the police presence at the townhalls and escort out the wannabe anarchists. I would add a requirement to screen participants at the door for proof of residency in the congressional district (for congressional townhalls), to preclude bussing in professional agitators. Then man-up, politicians!

    • Bender February 22, 2017 at 2:10 pm

      Easy there Henry, despite what you read on Breitbart and hear on Fox News, Utah congressmen are not being harassed by anarchists or bused in agitators at town hall meetings. I know from your perspective anyone left of Jason Chaffetz is left-wing but you are leaving out a broad swath of moderate voters — Republians, Independents and Democrats — who are by no reasonable definition of the term left-wing.

      But thanks for being in favor of free speech. :-/

      • Henry February 22, 2017 at 5:26 pm

        You should try news sources besides Daily Kos and The Nation, Bender. If you want to continue in denial about the “mob for hire” people and about Hillary not winning, that’s your prerogative.

        I think that I’d be considered much more “moderate” than you on many issues. I used to be a registered Democrat here in Washington County. I’m not a Chaffetz fan and would rather enjoy seeing him squirm at a townhall meeting. The same way that I made Hillary supporters squirm when I was standing in line and talking with them, as we were waiting to vote in last summer’s Democratic Primary election. Were you one of the ones I talked to? LOL

  • McMurphy February 22, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    “violence and intimidation” What violence? People yelling? If Chaffetz was intimidated then he should find another line of work.
    “What we are witnessing is not representative of Utah values …” What Evans considers Utah values is to vote R, then believe and passively accept everything your Lords and Masters in Washington tell you and come out from under your rock only when it is time again to vote R and write checks.

    @ Utahguns. Actually, Clinton got Americas vote by nearly three million unless, of course, you count the three to five millions illegal votes cast for Clinton.

  • .... February 23, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Well Bob and Real Life Dork are both Hillary supporters ! That should do it !!! L0L. ! wait for it ha ha ha ha ha ha !

  • anybody home February 23, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Following Trump’s lead, I suppose the Utah GOP is claiming that “busloads” of protesters are being sent to Utah. The Utah Republican delegation, starting with Shifty Chaffetz, is a cowardly crew unwilling to take any heat for what’s happening in the country under their so-called leadership.

    I got a chuckle out of this line from the story above accusing the opposion of “…sending an “organized mob” meant to sew disruption and chaos.”

    Would that be cross-stitch or a simple basting. A stitch in time does sometimes save nine.

    • Paul Dail February 23, 2017 at 9:50 am

      Thanks for pointing that out, Anybody Home. Yes, those mobs are pretty wild and crazy, and those sewing needles may just poke an eye out 🙂

      Correction made.

      Paul Dail
      Editor, Reporter

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