Democrats Fire Up Base at Town Hall Meeting in Silver Spring

Event doubled as a political rally and attack on the Trump agenda


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An audience member holds up a sign that says "Don't give 'em 1 inch" at the rally Sunday night

Andrew Metcalf

Hundreds of people cheered Democratic national, state and local officials Sunday night at a town hall-style meeting in downtown Silver Spring  that doubled as a progressive political rally where chants of “sanctuary state” broke out multiple times and congressmen cast President Donald Trump as a man out to destroy American democracy.

The event at the Silver Spring Civic Center was billed as a town hall and organized by the activist group Takoma Park Mobilization. While some audience members did ask questions to the dozen or so politicians on hand, the local leaders spent a significant portion of the event firing up attendees with political speeches focused on Trump.

Rep. John Delaney (District 6) criticized the president’s running attack on the press, his possible Russian connections and the Republican party attempts to suppress voters’ rights.

“This is a defining moment and I believe people will be judged,” Delaney said. “I believe in the fullness of time people will look back at this moment in history and they’ll judge Democrats, they’ll judge independents and they’ll judge Republicans. And those of you who are doing what you’re doing, you’ll not only be judged well, I believe this will be one of your finest hours as civilian citizens of this country.”

Both Rep. Jamie Raskin and Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich alluded to Nazi Germany in talking about the importance of resisting Trump’s agenda.

“We have to defeat Donald Trump and fascism,” Elrich said, describing the president as the biggest threat to democracy since the Nazis took over Germany during the early 1930s, leading to World War II.

Raskin described Trump as a “hoax perpetrated by the Russians on the United States of America.”

The newly elected congressman has embedded himself in the progressive wing of the Democratic party that’s led by senators such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. On Sunday, Raskin let loose with  a string of strongly negative adjectives in a speech describing Trump and his administration, illustrating an even more forceful tone than he had used when he spoke at a political revival with Warren at the same building in November.

“We’re not going to lie down and let a malignant, obsessive narcissist, a compulsive liar and his handpicked Harvard business school prepped out, alt-right, Goldman Sachs executive, extreme right-wing nationalist, and that cabinet of billionaires and bullies and bigots destroy everything that our forebears built,” Raskin said, drawing a loud round of applause. “It’s not gonna happen. We’re not gonna let it happen.”

The event took place on two stages—one inside the civic building and one outside in Veterans Plaza—with elected officials rotating between the two. Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen as well as Reps. Sarbanes and Anthony Brown also spoke at the event, as did County Council members Roger Berliner, Tom Hucker and Sidney Katz.

The crowd outside the Silver Spring Civic Center. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

The elected officials were warmly welcomed at the event held in heavily Democratic Montgomery County, where Hillary Clinton won with 75 percent of the vote. It served as a sharp contrast to the actions of some Republicans in Congress who have failed to show up to adversarial town halls with constituents in their districts who are concerned about Trump’s agenda and the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Raskin joked about the issue Sunday, saying that Takoma Park Mobilization called him back after first inviting him to speak to ask whether he’d be willing to share the stage with a number of his colleagues. He responded that he’d be happy to.

“That’s the difference,” Raskin said. “You can’t stop Democrats from going to other people’s town meetings.”

Though the focus was on Trump, audience members also cheered loudly for local progressive issues. One group gathered at the back of the room inside the building repeatedly started chants calling for the county to divest its employee pension fund from fossil fuels—an initiative currently being debated by the council. Others called for council members to support a $15 minimum wage bill passed by the council, but vetoed by County Executive Ike Leggett in January.

Leggett was not at the event Sunday and at one point the audience started chanting, “Where is Ike? Where is Ike?”

One group not represented on stage Sunday, though, was women. Though the speakers praised the hundreds of thousands of women who marched in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, the day after Trump’s inauguration, no female elected officials spoke at length on either stage, although some state delegates and senators were briefly recognized with their colleagues.

That led an audience member leaving the hall around 8 p.m. to turn to an organizer and ask, “Where are the women speakers?”

An attendee at the rally holds a sign that says "Hey Fox News no one pays me to protest - SAD! Stuck working full time, paying my bills, paying my taxes, exercising free speech rights." Credit: Andrew Metcalf

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