The election of Donald Trump changed something in Katie Dahlstrand, a veteran and history student at the University of Georgia.
“I decided that being a passive progressive is no longer an option,” she said.
Dahlstrand is now the campaign coordinator for the progressive group Athens For Everyone, which used social media to rally people to a recent meeting with Republican congressional staffers for Sen. Johnny Isakson, Sen. David Perdue and Rep. Jody Hice in the rural town of Greensboro, Georgia.
Even though Isakson, Perdue and Hice weren’t there, the routine event became a rowdy and sometimes tense exchange between their staff and the hundreds of people who wanted to voice their anger with Trump.
“If it’s a surprise now, they’ll be exhausted by the end of the year. This isn’t going to stop happening,” Dahlstrand said, “Things are different now and you need to start listening to your constituents.”
In Greensboro, protestors shouted “shame” at the Republican staffers, as all but one of them left a county auditorium to meet privately with constituents in a nearby conference room.
Amidst boos, Jessica Hayes, a staffer for Rep. Hice, told the angry crowd the meeting was meant for people who need help with social security and the IRS.
“It is not a town hall,” she said. “We are not going to have a town hall meeting. It is not an open forum. And like we said, we do this routinely, we've done it for years and years.”
The crowd elected to hold their own impromptu town hall meeting. The one staffer who remained started taking notes after the crowd yelled at him.
When Annie Grant took the microphone she said Trump isn’t fulfilling his pledge to stop corruption and “drain the swamp.”
“He has loaded the swamp with billionaires. He has loaded the swamp with people who do not care about us in these little small towns,” she said, “It’s crazy.”
Like most in the crowd, Grant said she’s mad at Trump over his executive order on immigration.
“Start doing voter registration right now,” she said. “Start searching for someone who can step up to the plate and don't mind sticking their chest out and saying 'This is wrong, and I'm going to do something about it.'”
Soon after the Greensboro meeting, Caroline Vanvick, press secretary for Perdue, issued a statement chastising the crowd.
“Our goal is to help as many Georgians as possible who have casework concerns and need assistance dealing with federal agencies like so many of our veterans and seniors,” she said. “If organized groups want to manufacture protests and continue to be disruptive, it will only deny those who really need help.”
The crowd in Greensboro wasn’t the only one that’s gathered recently in Georgia to voice their displeasure with Trump and Republicans. In addition to marches and protests, a recent town hall meeting in Atlanta hosted by the state House Democratic Caucus was standing-room only.
Rep. Stacey Evans, a Democrat from Smyrna, called on those in attendance to contact state legislators, including Republicans.
“If your representative is someone who’s already doing the right thing, you’ve already called them to give them your pep talk, find someone else that you have a personal connection with,” she said. “Go and talk to our Republican colleagues.”