On Friday, a group of over one-dozen mothers and grandmothers met with Congressman Greg Walden's local staff in a narrow hall outside Walden's East Main office in Medford, Oregon.
The women brought a list of grieviences for Waldens attention, funding for the Iraq war topped the list but also on their minds were librarys, healthcare. "What kind of state are we without libraries?" asked Arlene Aron of Applegate.
A pair of well armed security guards took positions in the lobby, as city police circled the block. Outside Walden's offices, around 50 protesters and Walden supporters mingled, exchanging stares and partisan soundbytes. Advocates for troop safety and government accountability, waving signs stating “Where’s Walden?,” “Fund Books Not Bombs!” and “Bring Our Troops Home Now!”.
Several Walden supporters waved flags and held signs stating "Walden for President" One Walden supporter scolded protesters, fearing the harm that might become it funding is abrupting cut. "I have a son in Iraq … We want to bring him home."
"It's not a real war" replied one agitated protester.
Activists for Citizens for Peace and Justice, Code Pink, Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice Applegate Citizens for Political Change, Veterans for Peace of Josephine County, and others organized the action, setting up a pink phone booth in the parking lot for citizens to call their congressmen directly. The group wants Walden to commit to scheduling several public town hall meetings across the 2nd Congressional District with plenty of notice to the public as to when they will be held.
Inside Walden's office, the group of women were met by Walden's staff members who insisted they meet in the narrow hallway outside Walden's office, perhaps in effort to avoid a repeat of last weeks sit-in protest in Bend.
Delivering citizens' e-mails, letters and a resolution of the Rural Organizing Project (ROP) to Walden, the women reminded Walden's staff that his constituents overwhelmingly support withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Walden's staff was professional, taking a position that Walden represents all citizens in the 2nd District, reaffirming the position as stated on Walden's congressional website, "Congressman Walden makes it a priority to personally meet with every resident of the Second Congressional District. "
The women countered with personal accounts of their own experiences and frustrations with Walden's lack of accountability. Mori Ink of Ashland challenged "all the facts we've brought to you, we haven't had no answers, no replys."
It was clear that both groups were frustrated. One Walden staffer who refused to give her name, declaring "I feel I can't have a real conversation with any of you."
Walden's staff said Walden was in Lakeview on Friday, but claimed that they have no idea where he will be next Thursday or anytime next week. Walden is one of the few members of Congress who does not have a calendar on his website, making it difficult for citizens to know when and where he will appear. "He does try to visit us anytime he can" assured Walden's spokesperson, but was unable to say when his next visit might be.
"We just want a public meeting sometime soon." snaps Arlene Aron.
Debbie Herzog lamented "how can a government offical run it that way?"
In the end, the group left with little more than a pledge that Walden would address their concerns in the future. Walden's staff invited them to return at 11 am next Thursday, April 5, at which time they expect to be able to schedule a conference call with the congressman.
Walden has a history of avoiding unfriendly constituency. Walden doesnt make public his schedule, leaving staff and citizens in the dark.
On March 20, six grandmothers were arrested at Walden’s office in Bend, Oregon. They had waited 12 hours to speak with Walden, hoping to deliver petitions, testimonials and other stories from a locally arranged Town Hall Meeting on the Cost of War. The town hall meetings were put on in four of Oregon’s Congressional districts and were attended by more than 700 rural Oregonians. Neither Walden nor his staff attend the public meetings, despite being on notice for several months. http://rogueimc.org/en/2007/03/8127.shtml
Wes Brain, videographer and organizer for Jobs with Justice, recalled that four years ago, back on the day the Iraq war started, Greg Walden's staff slammed the door on constituent's faces saying "Greg supported the war and that protesters should, too", As they slammed the door on democracy Walden staffers added, "We are closed." Several protesters were arrested that day too. A video called "The Walden Lockout" documents that event. http://rogueimc.org/en/2003/06/847.shtml
Activists are asking citizens to contact Congressman Walden, address his refusal to attend the Cost of War Iraq Town Halls; his refusal to meet with the six women in Bend; and his consistent pattern of voting for funding the Iraq Occupation.