DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Hundreds of voters packed an auditorium at the Richland Community College Monday night to hear Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) answer questions from the public in his first open town hall-style event since the election of President Donald Trump.
Guests had to show government identification to enter the premises. Government staff approached several noisy critics throughout the energetic event, but ultimately did not remove them from the audience. Police officers in uniform guarded the doors while plainclothes officers peered through curtains and monitored a tense crowd from behind hallway doors.
Agitated activists booed and hissed while buoyant supporters clapped and cheered the incumbent Republican who navigated questions about his record and President Trump’s inflammatory tweets with more poise and grace than his rambunctious stage mate, state Representative Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur).
When a veteran man stood and accused Davis of ignoring what he saw as racism in the president’s tweets, Caulkins swooped in, chided the man, and asked “what does that have to do with this?”
“I’m a veteran, and I am definitely opposed to racism,” the man said from the crowd. “You can’t blow it off. It happened,” he said.
“Sit down,” Caulkins reprimanded him.
“I’ve got a right to speak, too,” the man said.
“No you don’t,” Caulkins retorted angrily. “Sit down. You can leave.”
Once Caulkins returned to his seat on the stage, Davis reached over and patted him on the arm, as if to calm him down.
Marci Adelston-Schafer, a protester who demonstrated outside the town hall, shared similar frustrations about Congressman Davis and his cozy relationship with the President. She vented that her Congressman “won’t refute the President when the President does racist tweets.”
For his part, Davis said he wishes the president would govern more and tweet less, though he would not address the content in President Trump’s recent attacks on minority members of Congress until he was pressed further by reporters backstage.
“The president I don’t believe is a racist,” Davis said. “I watched him hang presidential medals of honor around the necks of the two African-American police officers that saved my life and the life of my friends on a baseball field over two years ago. This is a president that honors everyone.”
In an incredibly rare move, the House of Representatives voted on a bipartisan basis to formally condemn the President’s tweets as “racist.” Congressman Davis voted against the resolution.
“He’s a wimp,” Adelston-Schafer said. “He’s a wimp. He says that he’s bipartisan. Well, I want to see bipartisan. I haven’t seen it.”
Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), the only black Republican in the U.S. Senate, called President Trump’s attacks on four Congresswomen of color “racially offensive.”
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lists phrases like “go back to where you came from” as textbook examples of racial discrimination. Yet, the President and his supporters insist he merely picks fights with his critics, and that their race or ethnicity plays no role in how he selects the next target of his fury.
Since the President told the Congresswomen to “go back” to the countries they were “originally” from, he has also launched political attacks against power House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), claiming that his hometown of Baltimore was “rat and rodent infested” and that “no human being would want to live there.”
President Trump’s critics see a troubling trend in his rhetoric, including his prominent role in questioning President Obama’s birthplace and status as an American citizen and his campaign announcement that called Mexican immigrants rapists, that often excites white supremacists and dehumanizes or disrespects people of color.
Davis also criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s report as a waste of taxpayer dollars, and said — despite the report’s illustration of ten instances where the President and his team moved to obstruct justice — that he did not believe the President committed a crime.
“We cannot see guilt charged to somebody based upon a crime that they said they never committed,” Davis said.