Protesters have become regular visitors to U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis’ office since President Donald Trump took office. But now they are required to keep their distance.
On Tuesday, protesters in Raleigh gathered for their regular “Tuesday with Tillis” to express outrage over the health care bill in Congress. In the past, protesters say, they were allowed to enter the Republican senator’s government office two at a time to talk with office staff and leave letters expressing their concern.
At the latest gathering at the office, located at the federal building and courthouse in downtown Raleigh, protesters were not allowed to enter the building without a scheduled appointment, and yellow tape was put up outside to block protesters from entering the building.
“It’s a loss to us,” said Karen Ziegler, a member of Indivisible NC, part of a national group that has formed to protest the Trump administration and its policies. “We have to keep talking to them.”
Jordan Shaw, state director for Tillis, said in an email the state offices are there to help constituents and their staff does not handle policy issues.
“Our staff throughout the state have conducted dozens of in-person meetings with protest groups,” Shaw said in an email. “Despite the productive dialogue that those meetings generated, the protests have continued and have become more disruptive and, in some cases, more disrespectful toward our staff and our fellow tenants.”
Shaw said the offices would continue to meet with groups as long as they have an appointment that the two sides agreed on.
Health-care protests around the state have focused on Tillis, including two outside his home on Lake Norman. On Fridays the past two weeks, liberal advocacy group Progress NC loaded boats with protesters and chanted while floating near Tillis’ house.
Groups that have gathered at the Raleigh office in recent weeks include Indivisible NC, Progress NC, and NC Piedmont Democratic Socialists of America.
Michael Eisenberg of Raleigh, a regular protester, posted a video on Twitter complaining that he could not deliver the letter to the office. In the video, Eisenberg said this is “how fascism starts.”
At Tillis’ office in High Point, protesters posted videos on Facebook complaining they could no longer stand in front of the office to protest. They were told to protest across the street at the public park.
Senate Republicans released a new version of their health care repeal-and-replace bill on Thursday. Tillis said he would vote in support of the procedural step needed to move toward a vote on the plan.
“I look forward to carefully reviewing the changes made to the Better Care Act,” he said in a statement. “From what I’ve already seen, major improvements have been made, including a significantly bigger investment to combat and treat opioid addiction, and more funding to help control the rising costs of premiums for individuals and families,” he wrote.
Matthew Adams: 919-829-4806, @MatthewAdams60