Constituents demanding Trott meeting turned away

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

A group of citizens who wanted to meet with Republican Rep. Dave Trott were turned away Tuesday at the locked door of his district office in Troy by police who said they were trespassing.

Video footage of the encounter, which is circulating on social media, shows a group of 10 people from the group Michigan People’s Campaign gathered in the vestibule outside of Trott’s office on Big Beaver Road, joined by a couple TV and radio reporters.

Trott is traveling as part of a congressional delegation to India this week but, in the video, a staffer comes to the door of his office, momentarily listens to one of the constituents, and shuts the door.

Two officers from the Troy Police Department make their way through the group and stand in front of Trott’s door, warning the group that they are trespassing.

“You know you’re not supposed to be in here, right?” one of the officers says.

“We’re his constituents,” someone in the group says.

“He’s our elected official,” another adds.

“They don’t want you guys here,” the officer replies.

Troy police confirmed they arrived at the office building at 625 E. Big Beaver Road around 11:10 a.m. Tuesday in response to calls from Trott’s office manager.

“Those that entered the building were asked to leave at the request of the building owner,” Sgt. Meghan Broderick Lehman said, noting protesters had previously been warned about trespassing.

The group left a few minutes later and rejoined a gathering of protesters on the sidewalk outside, said Julia Galliker of Bloomfield Hills, a volunteer with the Michigan People’s Campaign and the constituent who tried speaking to Trott’s staffer.

A sign on Trott’s door said the office accepts no walk-ins, and visitors may call for an appointment. But constituents say they’ve left repeated messages to no avail.

“We really have no meaningful access to our representative,” Galliker said, noting that constituents first requested a meeting with Trott in a Dec. 20 letter hand-delivered to his office. “It’s like he’s hermetically sealed off. We just want to be heard.”

Trott spokeswoman Katie Vincentz said the steps taken by district staffers, including notifying police, are “directly in line” with guidance from U.S. Capitol Police.

“Rep. Trott always welcomes and wants input from all those he represents,” Vincentz said by email. “Members of the Michigan People’s Campaign have met numerous times with the congressman’s staff, and their concerns were brought directly to Rep. Trott while he was in Washington voting on legislation.”

Galliker said she was among four constituents to meet with a Trott staffer on Feb. 3, but that they still want a face-to-face meeting with the sophomore congressman himself to convey concerns about GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The group’s efforts are part of an uptick in civic activism across the country largely directed at Republican lawmakers who want to repeal and replace Obamacare. Activists with the Michigan People’s Campaign and other groups have held several protests outside Trott’s Troy office this year. Police said they have made no arrests.

Sherri Masson, a retired elementary school teacher from Milford, was also in the vestibule outside Trott’s office Tuesday.

“I’m a constituent who feels very strongly about the direction we’re going with the Trump administration, and I feel it’s very important that we have a face to face, and are able to communicate our concerns to our elected official,” Masson said.

“These demonstrations are really designed to shine a spotlight on people like David Trott, who are not coming home on recess and speaking to people who might have opposing viewpoints. Until we have dialogue with each other, we’re never going to completely understand where he stands, and he’s never going to completely understand where we are.”

Vincentz provided statistics about Trott’s time in office, saying he has attended more than 1,000 public events, including 40 public forums, town halls and “coffee talks.” She said the office has resolved more than 1,000 cases for constituents, hosted 200 mobile office hours and sent more than 6,500 written responses to constituents in recent weeks regarding their questions and concerns.

The website has a running clock saying it’s been nearly two years since Trott held an open air-style town hall in person. The congressman remotely hosted a “tele-town hall” this month, where he took questions by phone from Washington.

Trott told The Detroit News last week that he plans to have a town hall in the future, but he’s been in Washington a lot because Congress has a busy voting schedule in 2017.

“If the purpose of the ‘new’ town hall is to be disruptive and draw attention to people’s concerns over the replacement for the Affordable Care Act or President Trump’s immigration policies, I don’t know that a town hall is going to be particularly productive, because I’ve heard those concerns,” Trott said at the U.S. Capitol, alluding to heckling by protesters at other GOP town halls.

“Every night you can turn on the TV and hear firsthand what people are concerned about.”

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