Rohrabacher and activists trade barbs after scuffle at congressman's office

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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) says activists involved in a scuffle that injured a staff member and resulted in a 2-year-old girl being knocked on the head with a door at his Huntington Beach office Tuesday were "engaged in political thuggery," but constituents say they were trying to get their congressional representative to hear them out.

Just before the incident, activists were gathered on the street outside Rohrabacher's office in an effort to persuade him to meet with them to discuss what they believe are vexing issues, including the recent travel ban on people from seven countries, the future of the Affordable Care Act and President Trump's alleged ties to Russia.

Indivisible OC, a group opposed to Trump and "political extremism in Orange County," said constituents have been trying to meet with Rohrabacher, who has shown support for the president, and other local Republican representatives for three weeks. They said they've been met with silence from elected officials.

On Tuesday, about 15 activists stood in the hallway outside Rohrabacher's office at 101 Main St. and slid Valentine's Day cards under the door asking him to hold a town hall meeting.

Huntington Beach resident Megan Blash and her 2-year-old daughter, Lola, bent down to place an envelope under Rohrabacher's office door when a staff member opened the door and it hit the child on the head. She fell backward and began to cry, according to a video of the incident posted on social media.

One of the activists tugged at the door in an effort to keep it open while the staff member tried to close it. The struggle caused the staffer, identified by Rohrabacher's office as 71-year-old Kathleen Staunton, to fall, according to police.

"They were jammed outside the door, and the moment Kathleen cracked the door, someone yanked it open," Rohrabacher spokesman Kenneth Grubbs said in an email.

Officers responded to the scene, but no one was arrested.

Staunton was treated by paramedics and taken to a hospital "after falling into unconsciousness," according to a statement from Grubbs. She had a 2-inch bump on her head, Grubbs said.

Aaron McCall, a Costa Mesa resident and member of Indivisible OC, said the 2-year-old and Staunton did not appear to be hurt.

"She was completely conscious," McCall said of Staunton. "She was fine."

Lola has a small red mark on her cheek but is otherwise uninjured, Blash said Wednesday.

Rohrabacher, who was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, blasted the activists in a statement, saying he was "outraged beyond words."

"Deliberate or not, the incident came as part of a mob action," and the group "engaged in political thuggery, pure and simple," he said.

Indivisible OC fired back with a statement on social media, saying members want to engage in democracy and be heard by their representative.

"It is a shame that Rep. Rohrabacher has refused repeated requests to hold a town hall meeting for his district and holds particular contempt for engaged citizens by characterizing their civic duty as political thuggery," the statement said. "For all we know, the only political thuggery we see is his Twitter behavior."

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

benjamin.brazil@latimes.com

Twitter: @benbrazilpilot

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