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Long Beach community members connect and clash at town hall session

Passionate attendees speak out about America at event hosted by Congressman Lowenthal.

Two+audience+members+get+into+a+fiery+argument+with+Donald+Trump+supporters+during+Monday%E2%80%99s+town+hall+meeting+at+Long+Beach+City+College+Auditorium.
Two audience members get into a fiery argument with Donald Trump supporters during Monday’s town hall meeting at Long Beach City College Auditorium.

Two audience members get into a fiery argument with Donald Trump supporters during Monday’s town hall meeting at Long Beach City College Auditorium.

Stephen Oduntan

Stephen Oduntan

Two audience members get into a fiery argument with Donald Trump supporters during Monday’s town hall meeting at Long Beach City College Auditorium.

Ammi Ruiz, Staff Writer

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Tensions rose Monday night as roughly 1,000 residents of the 47th District packed the Long Beach City College auditorium for a town hall meeting with Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.

Topics discussed at the “Conversation About America” event held by the Democratic congressman centered around health care, immigration and the environment.

Constituents were given the opportunity to voice their concerns about the national issues to Lowenthal and three other guest speakers that joined him onstage.

James Gilliam from the American Civil Liberties Union, Alicia Morales from the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, and Dr. Elisa Nicholas from The Children’s Clinic in Long Beach joined the representative in responding to inquiries and giving advice in a panel.

Most attendees seemed to be in agreement with the political matters mentioned at the town hall, but the event got off to a tense start due to a few loud remarks made by Trump supporters.

“I don’t like you talking about my president like that!” yelled Arthur Schaper after a comment Lowenthal made about Trump not being respectful.

Other attendees booed and yelled back at Schaper various times. He was the only attendee wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap.

A Los Angeles Unified School District teacher spoke about her concerns over deportation raids at schools. She said she has started locking the doors of her classroom.

Tobias Newman, a 13-year-old who attends school in Long Beach, also spoke on the topic of immigration.

“The day after Election Day, I saw lots of kids crying and scared that their families would be deported. What can we and what are we doing to prevent families from being torn apart?” he asked.

Lowenthal spoke on his opposition to the travel ban and the proposed wall along the Mexican border, while the Trump supporters chanted “Build that wall!”

Angela Madsen, a disabled war veteran, said she was worried about the privatization of health care.

“Our healthcare [system] isn’t broken. It’s just a little bit obstructed. We want to get rid of the for-profit people,” Madsen said.

One woman mentioned hiring a “special prosecutor” to remove President Trump from his position, which caused a majority of the attendees to spring to their feet and applaud.

The meeting was scheduled to last from 6-8 p.m., but several community members waited afterwards to talk to  Lowenthal and the panelists.

“I hate to say it, but it was a little cliché when [Lowenthal] acted like a politician – not really answering some of the questions and stuff,” said An Nguyen, who traveled from Buena Park to attend the event.

Nguyen said the recent election awoke him from a state of apathy towards political activism.

“Overall, I felt this was a really good town hall. I really appreciated that [Lowenthal] included the Republicans here and let them speak,” he said.

“We’ve never had this large of a town hall meeting … but I feel that these people are feeling the need for ongoing contact with their congressmen,” said Lowenthal in an interview.

Lowenthal said the reason a large number of people attended the event was because they’re feeling frustrated and are unsure of what to do, but they want to get connected.

“People are beginning to realize that the decisions that are being made in Washington have a tremendous impact on their lives, and the only way we’re going to change things is if they get involved,” the congressman said.

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