VISTA, Calif. (CN) – Activists who have protested at Rep. Darrell Issa’s district office since President Donald Trump was elected held their last protest Tuesday as they switch gears to voter outreach ahead of the June primary in the swing district.
Protesters have gathered at Issa’s Vista, California office nearly every Tuesday since December 2016 for “Resist Trump Tuesdays” and to call on their congressman – a strong supporter of Trump – to oppose the president’s policies on flashpoint topics from health care to immigration.
Ellen Montanari, the organizer of the protests, told Courthouse News the rallies grew from a handful of people to over 800 when they held a “die in” rally complete with hand painted tombstones to protest Issa’s vote in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Tuesday was the 67th rally at Issa’s office, Montanari said.
Protest volunteers and organizers came up with different themes each week. One week, the theme was “Issa, You’re Toast” and a volunteer brought burnt toast to Issa’s office. Another week’s theme was “Time to Clean House” and protesters gifted employees at Issa’s office with cleaning supplies, as well as a rodent trap, Montanari said. Protesters also wrote their zip codes on sponges they dropped off to counter Issa’s claim they were “paid protesters” and not his constituents.
When Issa announced he was retiring, protesters gathered at his office to hold a “retirement party” complete with a cake to send off their congressman.
One of the protesters wrote 87 original songs to go along with each week’s theme.
Montanari said having a sense of humor has helped to maintain their momentum in keeping the 1 1/2 year protest going.
“We are focused and determined, but we aren’t always angry. We could be outraged and still have a good time,” Montanari said.
Montanari said she worked full-time on the protests, calling herself “the epitome of white privilege” for being able to work on her activism full-time while unpaid. Another volunteer worked full-time as well, while someone else worked 20 hours a week and “all kinds of people” spent one to 10 hours a week volunteering, Montanari said. She said unpaid volunteers logged well over 100 hours a week to put the protest on.
She said organizers have decided to take the time they spent organizing the weekly rallies and redirect that time and energy toward getting voters to the polls for the June 6 primary.
Sixteen candidates are vying to replace Issa, including retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate and current San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar.
Protesters have showed up week after week, Montanari said, to not only protest Trump’s administration but to protest Issa’s support of the president and provide a “check and balance” on the executive branch.
“I started the rallies because I wanted to talk to Issa to find out what’s going on in Washington. It became very clear to me Darrell Issa had no interest in talking to us. Eventually he talked at us, but not with us,” Montanari said.
“I don’t have any control over Donald Trump, but I do have control over my district. If I can help to flip the seat and others are doing the same, we can take the House.”
Lenore Greiner, another activist who has attended the weekly protests since the beginning, called the protest at Issa’s office the “largest, longest running protest in America since Trump’s inauguration.”
“There are a lot of patriots here and they don’t like what’s going on,” Greiner said.
“We were a red county and now we’re turning blue.”
She said the protests have served as an outlet for people to express themselves away from “polarization and anger.”