About 50 demonstrators gathered outside the Eastside Costa Mesa home of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher on Thursday night, demanding that the longtime Republican congressman fulfill their requests for a town hall meeting.
The demonstration, organized by Courage Campaign, a progressive activist group, and the Service Employees International Union, also advocated against repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — and against President Trump in general, calling him the country’s “liar in chief.”
The group first congregated around 6 p.m. in the parking lot of the Mariners library branch in Newport Beach before crossing Irvine Avenue into Costa Mesa and marching to Rohrabacher’s house carrying signs, electric candles and small American flags.
Leaders said they have been routinely rallying around the congressman’s Huntington Beach office seeking a meeting but have not been successful, so they decided to protest Thursday in front of his home.
Rohrabacher was inside having a barbecue dinner with friends.
Two demonstrators knocked on the door to ask Rohrabacher to come outside. He did not answer, and other people inside asked the group to stay off his property, organizers said.
“We’re basically asking him to do part of his job, which is to meet with his constituents, even if he doesn’t agree with us,” said Darcie Olson, a Costa Mesa resident and one of the demonstration organizers.
Rohrabacher spokesman Ken Grubbs called the protest another among recent “Alinskyite disruptions” — a reference to community organizer Saul Alinsky, author of the 1971 book “Rules for Radicals.”
“These are not Norman Rockwell ‘town halls,’” Grubbs added in an email.
Grubbs also referenced the nationwide Indivisible movement that is protesting Trump’s policies.
“When people show up at [Rohrabacher’s] door with signs and bullhorns, he is perfectly aware that the incivility springs from Indivisible guidelines to disrupt rather than engage in dialogue,” Grubbs said. “He chooses not to take their disingenuous bait. He reaches vastly more constituents and hears their concerns by far more productive means.”
On Sunday, Sue Dvorak, spokeswoman for Indivisible OC 48, a group focused on Rohrabacher’s 48th Congressional District, issued a statement saying, “For the record, the Indivisible movement (including Indivisible OC 48) did not participate in or condone [Thursday’s] action in any way.”
Before the demonstrators’ arrival Thursday, several cars were parked within inches of one another along the curb in front of Rohrabacher’s yard. The cars created a barrier that largely kept the demonstrators off his lawn. The yard’s sprinkler system was running, which also deterred many from going on the grass.
Grubbs said Rohrabacher, like many other Southern Californians, turned on his sprinkers because a watering restriction had been lifted. It happened before he saw any demonstrators coming, Grubbs said.
“If any protesters thought he turned the sprinklers on them, it would be in keeping with their self-conception of the world revolving around nobody else but them,” Grubbs said.
Organizers initially described the demonstration as a candlelight vigil — part of seven happening simultaneously around the state that targeted Republican Congress members.
At first, members of the group spoke through a megaphone outside the library. Within about 15 minutes, they headed into Eastside Costa Mesa, where about five police officers were waiting.
Soon they were walking onto Costa Mesa Street, where Rohrabacher bought a home in 2012.
While some officers followed the group, others closed Costa Mesa Street at Irvine Avenue.
After stopping in front of Rohrabacher’s house, the protesters chanted phrases such as “This is what democracy looks like,” “Do your job” and “Where’s Dana?”
Some labeled Rohrabacher a “coward” and a “chicken” for not answering the door. Others shouted for him to turn off the sprinklers.
After standing outside the house for about 20 minutes, the demonstrators left at the behest of the police. On their way out, they sang “This Land Is Your Land.”
According to Rohrabacher’s Facebook page, he spoke earlier that day during a Newport Harbor Republican Women luncheon at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach.
He also spent time with constituents at his Huntington Beach office, “covering issues from healthcare to energy technology to water,” according to the Facebook page.
Thursday’s protest was preceded by one on Monday by different activist groups who expressed disdain for Rohrabacher’s political alignment with Trump. One of the groups, Indivisible OC 48, said it will visit Rohrabacher’s office every Tuesday.
On Feb. 14, in what Rohrabacher later characterized as “political thuggery,” activists were in the hallway outside his office when a scuffle occurred. A 2-year-old girl was hit on the head by a door that opened as she was placing an envelope under it. Aside from a small red mark on her cheek, she was uninjured.
The woman who opened the door, a 71-year-old Rohrabacher staff member, fell after an activist tugged at the door to keep it open.
The woman was later taken to a hospital, Grubbs said.