Protesters call on Rep. Paulsen for more accessibility

By Sean Miner
SUN CURRENT NEWSPAPERS
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Several dozen demonstrators held signs and chanted outside Third District Rep. Erik Paulsen’s office in Eden Prairie for two hours Feb. 4.

The protest was organized by Indivisible CD3, the local incarnation of a group that bills itself on its website as “former congressional staffers [revealing] best practices for making Congress listen.” The aim of Saturday’s event, according to organizers, was to call attention to the group’s petition, which calls on Paulsen to hold quarterly, in-person town hall meetings with his constituents.

“He is the lever that we have to exert any influence in Washington, so he needs to hear our voices,” said Jena Martin, co-chair of Indivisible CD3. “That’s the primary goal of our group, to reach him to represent us.”

Martin noted that, nationwide, the Indivisible movement does lean left, politically — the national website proclaims the group to be a “practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda.” But, she pointed out that the local push for more access to Rep. Paulsen was driven by those on both sides of the aisle.
“Our district has a lot of what people would call moderates,” said Martin. “The group is left-leaning, but I don’t think holding Paulsen accountable is a left-leaning request.”

fw09nwpaulsenprotest1A spokesman from the Paulsen office issued a statement in response to the protest. The statement pointed to over-the-phone town hall meetings that Paulsen conducts fairly regularly.

“Congressman Paulsen has held over 100 town hall events reaching hundreds of thousands of constituents since taking office,” read the statement. “Despite coordinated political efforts organizing protests across the country, Congressman Paulsen will continue to prioritize communication with constituents.”
According to Indivisible CD3 Co-Chair Clara Severson, those phone calls aren’t good enough.

“We think it’s really important to put him on the spot,” said Severson. “He should be facing us and seeing exactly who’s asking the questions.”

The telephone town halls have allowed for residents to ask questions, but Severson stressed that being able to speak with their representative in the flesh was paramount.

“We need an open dialogue,” said Severson. “When he’s asked questions, we should be able to respond back, and let him know if that was an adequate answer or not.”

Severson said that the group’s petition had garnered more than 1,500 signatures. The request will be turned in to Paulsen office Friday, Feb. 10, and it asks for a response from him by Feb. 20 on whether or not he will comply with the terms.

She said that the group was pleased with the turnout on Saturday.

“I would say it went better than expected,” Severson said. “We ended up with probably 30 more people that we were planning for, which is awesome, especially on such a cold day.

“I think we made our point to Mr. Paulsen,” she added.

The petition can be viewed at standupminnesota.org/cd3.