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More than a hundred people from throughout Okanogan County gathered in Omak Monday to protest policies of the Trump Administration. The demonstration was held at Omak City Hall, where members of Congressman Dan Newhouse’s staff were holding their regular monthly meeting with area constituents. Newhouse staff member Jessica McCarthy told demonstrators that there would not be a public meeting and she would not answer questions on behalf of the Republican congressman. McCarthy did meet with individuals privately to listen to their concerns. She promised Newhouse would try to schedule a town hall meeting in the Okanogan. Because of his crowded schedule, she said that probably would not occur until later in spring.
Dr. Elizabeth Weiss, a retired physician, who lives in Winthrop and who participated in event said, “I was very pleased with the turnout. Despite one of the largest snowstorms of the year people from all over Okanogan County came together to raise their voices as citizens in support of affordable healthcare, protecting our water, air, public lands, immigration justice, and protecting our constitution.”
Weiss said, “The county came together to make clear Congressman Newhouse will be held accountable by all his constituents, his votes and leadership matter to us.”
She said, "We know that Representative will be on ‘home break’ this month. We want a town hall meeting in our area during the upcoming Congressional Break the week of February 20. Legislation is happening at such a pace we cannot wait to be heard until April."
Since Newhouse’s staff refused a public meeting, the demonstrators held their own town meeting, inviting people to read letters and ask questions that they had prepared. The event was loosely organized as part of the national “Indivisible” movement, which uses social media to marshal resistance to President Trump’s actions. Various grassroots, anti-Trump organizations have sprung up in recent weeks in both the Okanogan and Methow valleys. Getting the most attention at Monday’s demonstration was concern over the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obama Care. A number of health care providers and advocates related case histories of county residents who received life-saving treatment as a direct result of Obama Care. Supporters of North Valley Hospital noted that in addition to medical care, the hospital has a major economic impact as the largest employer in the north valley.
Speakers also expressed concern over undocumented workers, who are viewed as essential to the county’s agricultural economy. Others were anxious about attempts to soften environmental regulations and the security of federal employees. The latter are not nameless, faceless bureaucrats but “our friends and neighbors,” said one speaker.
Pat Leigh, a spokesperson for the group, remarked, “Now the question is how will Representative Newhouse respond to the many letters submitted today?"