Houston News & Search
Signs, banners, bullhorns and noisemakers not allowed
Updated 6:28 pm, Saturday, March 25, 2017
The day after a President Donald Trump’s health reform bill was pulled from House consideration, hundreds of Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson’s constituents crowded into a Houston middle school auditorium for a raucous town hall.
Police estimated about 500 people stood in a line that snaked around the building when the room reached its capacity of 700. Some of those refused admittance were frustrated, shouting, “Let us in! Let us in!”
“What makes Houston so beautiful is the diversity of the people here, and our voices aren’t being heard,” said protester Tara Johnson, 43.
Inside, Culberson struggled to answer questions over the sounds of shouting from the crowd.
“You know what, folks? I’m either going to answer the question, or we’re just going to spend the time yelling,” Culberson said.
In response to a question about proposals to cut federal funding for public broadcasting, Culberson drew boos from the crowd when he said he wanted support to continue for now but would like to see the service “ultimately” be self-supporting.
Concern about immigration issues was evident among those participating in the town hall as well as those who couldn’t get in.
The latter group included Abraham Espinosa, 26, whose family brought him as a baby to Texas from Mexico City. Espinosa has lived in Culberson’s district most of his life.
As he waited in line Saturday afternoon, Espinosa cited Hillary Clinton’s victory among voters in Culberson’s district in November’s presidential election.
“The ideology amongst the constituents is changing, and he’s still very hard-line Republican,” he said.
Espinosa, who became a U.S. citizen in November, hopes Culberson will listen to the needs of his changing electorate.
“I’ll be able to vote soon,” Espinosa said, “and my voice is obviously something that should matter.”
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Only residents of Culberson’s 7th congressional district were seated due to limited capacity. Admission required picture identification and proof of residency, such as a utility bill. Signs, banners, noisemakers and bullhorns were prohibited. To address the congressman, constituents may “submit written questions, which will be randomly drawn for response.”
The 7th Congressional district covers a small part of western Harris County and several high-income enclaves including Bellaire and the villages in west Houston.
Culberson has represented the area since 2001.
Demonstrators who protested outside the Lakeside Country Club in west Houston as the congressman delivered an invitation-only speech hoped for an audience with him during the February recess.
>>>Scroll through the gallery above to see who in the Texas delegation has been an ardent supporter of Donald Trump’s agenda
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