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Impeachment Protest at Visclosky Town Hall Meetings

By Nick Egnatz, Munster, Indiana, Veterans For Peace

On Wednesday January 12 a group of activists from Veterans For Peace,
Iraq Veterans Against the War and Code Pink took their impeachment
message to Congressman Pete Visclosky's (D-IN) Town Hall Meetings.
With activists each holding a letter spelling IMPEACH, we stood
witness to the crimes of the Bush Administration at four separate Town
Hall Meetings.

We started at the 10AM meeting in Hobart in which we stood in the back
of the room. Congressman Visclosky was kind enough to walk back and
shake all our hands before the meeting started. Although we all
appreciated his trademark courtesy, we would liked a commitment for
impeach to go along with it.

When we arrived at the noon meeting in Griffith , we were told to get
ourselves ready and we would be told where we could stand for our
protest. A total of fifteen individuals took part throughout the day
to spell IMPEACH at each of the meetings. We held the letters held by
so that our Iraq Vets, Vince and Derek would have the most impact with
their IVAW tee shirts visible. Taking part in the action were Jose
Rolon, Jim Roseen, Jan Stewart, Anita Skomac, her mother Myrna and son
Drew, Ursula Cano, Nick Egnatz, Vince Emanuale, Derek Giffin, Joyce
Niksic, Nancy Thompson, Karen Kroczek, Sue Eleuerio and Linda Daniels.
In Highland we had a couple who got up from the crowd and joined us
standing for impeachment.

Thinking that we might be stuck in a corner with our message, we were
all quite surprised when we were escorted behind the town board
members seating area and told to stand there directly behind the
Congressman when he conducted his meeting. In Highland , it was a
classroom set up and we were put just off to the side of the
Congressman and in Munster we again were right behind the Congressman
as he met with his constituents. In the picture from the Munster
meeting, Karen Kroczek who was our letter A was absent since she was
taking the picture.

We had great visibility and reception from the attendees. The
meetings ranged from an estimated 50 in Griffith the smallest locale
to about 120 in Munster . Congressman Visclosky does 24 of these
meetings in a 5 day span every January. I thanked him for this at the
Griffith meeting where I was able to ask him a live question as
opposed to the written ones which he normally uses in his format. I
have heard from people all across the country who have said that their
congressman is not accessible, never holds town hall meetings and
avoids meetings of any type with concerned citizens.

The Congressman's answer to all impeachment questions is that it is a
divisive process and with the time remaining he believes it will best
be spent on trying to pass meaningful legislation. Unfortunately,
whether a written or a verbal question, when we ask a question in this
format we do not have the chance to rebut his answer. Anyway my
verbal question referenced the House Judiciary Committee Democratic
Staff Report in 2005 which stated there was a prima facie case that
the President and his Administration had broken 7 different federal
and international laws in taking us to war. Of course I though that
the country deserved an impeachment investigation and trial in lieu of
these serious charges which had met the so called "burden of proof"
implied in prima facie. I just got his stock answer and on to the
next question.

About our congressman: twenty years in Congress, Chairman of the Water
and Energy Subcommittee, he voted against the Iraq War Resolution, has
signed on as a co-sponsor of John Murtha's bill to redeploy our troops
out of Iraq and has voted with the majority of the Democratic Party to
fund the war through the years. His office is professionally run and
he is very responsive to constituents. Even in his Town Hall Meetings
he refrains from partisan jibes or attacks and concentrates on policy
and constituents' concerns. In fact in almost all things, he is a
great congressman, but he refuses to break with leadership on
impeachment and war funding.

He is in fact a result of our broken Two-Party System of Government.
How can an honorable man be right on so many issues and wrong on the
two most important issues of the day? Restoring the rule of law with
the impeachment of the war criminals and stopping the funding of the
continued occupation.

At the last meeting in Munster, where we were so prominently located
at the head of the class, an elderly man stood up as the Congressman
was starting his talk and said that he had come to hear the
Congressman and was offended to see the imbeciles standing behind him,
referring to yours truly and his merry band. I almost spoke up that I
would like to handle that question, but Congressman Visclosky said
that he was honoring our exercise of free speech and that we had an
Iraq War Vet who had fought for that freedom of speech.

Vince and I attended the Chesterton Town Hall Meeting on Thursday at
noon which was attended by about 100 people. We didn't do an
impeachment protest just wore, IVAW and VFP shirts. When an
impeachment question came up the Congressman referred to our protest
of the previous day and mentioned Vince's status as a vet.
Incidentally the question which was written and authored by me
referred to the possibility of the President starting a new war with
Iran or Pakistan . It was greeted with enthusiastic cheering from
what seemed like everybody in attendance, but again all we got was the
stock answer.

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It reads as if the Congressman supports you but has something held to his head.... Across the country, when state governments try to pass impeachment resolutions, it has been reported, U.S. Congressmen, Senators and Governors plead with statehouse legislators to not do it, going way beyond what is sensible in their plea that it is "divisive." It should be pointed out that their patent resistance to the obvious is undermining the forward process of our government, and, in fact, creating "divisiveness" itself. This resistance goes beyond what is necessary for Pelosi, say, to make her point and get out of the way. Obviously, this is a dedicated tactic by questionable leadership. It would seem to come from Nancy Pelosi, since it is parroted response of Congressmen, as who else could put out a directive to Democratic Congressmen across the Board? Since Senators are also involved, Harry Reid, it would seem, is doing likewise.

Why not now amongst those who are actively working on pressing for impeachment at town halls do two things:

1. Simply frame your town hall questions along the line of "Though it appears that Nancy Pelosi has provided you the blanket statement to iterate when questioned on impeachment, that you are supposed to respond to all questioning by declaring to impeach is "divisive," what is your response to {specific question}, and if they repeat the usual response, you have taken any wind left out of their sails?

And, a statement along this line -

2. Representative [name], if it was the case that your leader in the House had required, acting out of power, perhaps threatening power, for all Congressmen to respond in a patent way if their constituents ask them to vote for or against something (say, for impeachment), and your sentiments were closer to those constituents and their point of view than with that patent response message you were required to deliver by leadership, how would you like your constituents to help you (give you cover) to accomplish what they would like, working with you so that you can then bring them the desired vote; other than to tell those persons to just go back to your little homes, as this would not likely happen. For example, Congressman, how can we help you to help us with impeachment at this time, which movement is growing increasingly more momentous?

If this was done at every Congressperson's town hall across the nation over the next few weeks, what might result? I would think something would break in the resistance somewhere. I think Congresspersons want their constituents to help them remove what appears to have been an albatross on their neck; I can't believe they really want to be non-responsive in this fashion; even Republicans.

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