Protesters gathered at Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10)’s Sterling district office every morning and afternoon this entire week asking for answers.
Members of Indivisible VA 10, one of the many protest organizations that have sprung up in the 10th District since the 2016 election, have called upon Comstock for months to hold an in-person town hall. Comstock has so far insisted on small-group meetings and telephone town halls. People who have been to in-person meetings say often they’ve had to drive to Washington, DC, to have them, even during congressional recess. Others have received only prepared statements.
“We get that we might never agree, we might never change your mind,” said Indivisible member Jan Hyland. “But this is still a huge part of your job, and the less you engage with us, the more distrust there is.”
“The congresswoman has held two telephone town halls where she reached approximately 9,000 constituents and will hold more,” said Comstock spokesman Jeff Marschner by email. “She and her staff have also met with hundreds of constituents at small group and individual meetings in our offices in Sterling, Winchester and on Capitol Hill.”
Marschner also pointed out that Hyland, who works in public relations, was deputy press secretary for former Lt. Governor, U.S. Ambassador and current Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA-8)’s campaign for governor in 1997. Hyland said she hasn’t worked in politics since and that her experience with Beyer “showed me how much effort most elected officials put into communicating with constituents.”
Friday afternoon, about 25 people gathered on the site of Rt. 7 in front of Comstock’s Sterling office. Indivisible VA 10 organized the protests. Each day brought different themes and different protesters—from Comstock’s voting record Monday, to science and the environment Tuesday, immigration Wednesday, health care Thursday, and Russia’s influence in the election Friday.
Ayala Sherbow, another Indivisible organizer, met with Comstock one on one before a town hall meeting Indivisible organized after being unable to convince the congresswoman’s office to arrange one.
“I could tell she doesn’t believe who Indivisible represents at all,” Sherbow said. “I don’t know who she thinks is footing the bill, I don’t know who she thinks this energy is coming from, but it’s clear that she doesn’t get that we are, like, we’re realtors, and engineers, and moms, and teachers, and students.”
Cleo U., who declined to give her full last name and says she lives in Middletown, said a young Trump supporter came to the protest Thursday with a sign reading “I Love Trump” and a “Make America Great Again” hat.
“I looked over at him, and I said, ‘do you want a drink? I brought a cooler, help yourself,’” Cleo said. “He was standing there, and I’m smiling at him, and I say why don’t you come down here and stand next to me, and we can have opposing protests.”
Cleo said she and the young man struck up a conversation, both about politics and everyday life.
“I think he was expecting to film himself getting yelled at, and he got the total opposite response to that,” she said.
By the time he left, she said, they shared a hug and a picture.
“Barbara Comstock will not meet with her constituents in a town hall because she is afraid that we are going to be rowdy, and here is a Trump supporter, a lovely young man, who came here expecting the same thing,” Cleo said. “And instead we ended up giving each other a hug and he wanted to take a selfie with me. So it’s absolutely ridiculous that Barbara is less afraid of going to Egypt—where two bombs went off when she was there—and she is more afraid of us, her constituents.”
On Friday, Comstock returned from a trip to Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA), and Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY).
“She has met with hundreds more constituents, as she has for the seven years she has been in office, by tirelessly visiting local businesses – small and large, hospitals, universities, schools, community organizations, Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, non-profits, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and more,” Marschner said. “There is no one who is more ever present in the district – listening to, learning from and meeting with her constituents.”