On Feb. 24, members of the of the Fourth Congressional District of Hattiesburg gathered outside Congressman Steven Palazzo’s office on Main Street to hold a “Town Hall Meeting” with the congressman.
Women’s March Hattiesburg Huddle (WMHH) organized the meeting to give Palazzo an opportunity to address the organization’s concerns. Facilitator for the WMHH Caroline Miles said these demonstrations are important because it gives women a sense of solidarity.
“Through this group and these demonstrations our voices are being heard,” Miles said. “It leaves an impression. In some cases, our voices are heard and still ignored, but they are still heard.”
The WMHH voiced concerns about the following topics: Affordable Care Act (ACA) Repeal, Immigration Reform; US-Russia relations, President Trump’s Business Conflicts; Bill to Dismantle the EPA, Social Justice Issues and Voter Suppression.
Residents and community organizers hoped to discuss these topics with Palazzo and make sure they, too, were being accurately represented by the Congressman.
Miles said Palazzo stated earlier in the week that “[the Town Hall Meeting] was just going to be an angry group of liberals yelling at him.”
Palazzo never guaranteed his attendance.
Spectrum Center board member Lynn Coles said representatives need to be held accountable on the local and national levels. Coles said demonstrators should take out their cell phones and save the numbers of Representative Palazzo, Sen. Roger Wicker and Sen. Thad Cochran.
“Phone calls are the most effective way to get our points across,” Coles said. “Please use your phones.”
At the meeting, Coles introduced speakers Charlee Osborne, Melinda Medina and Raylawni Branch.
Branch played a role in integrating USM in 1965.
Osborne discussed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and said residents should urge Palazzo to not vote for its repeal. Osborne said he grew up poor and received health care through USM when he was a student. He introduced his Chris, his closest friend, who has diabetes, and said Chris’ medicine cost approximately $1,000 per month.
“ACA made it possible for Chris to receive his medication every month,” Osborne said. “What would happen to Chris’ son if anything happened to Chris because he couldn’t afford his medication for his diabetes? Reform is not bad – complete repeal is [bad].”
Medina said she saw herself having the same issues that other Latino individuals face in the Hattiesburg community.
“I’ve seen the Latino community having trouble just communicating with others,” Medina said. “They’re having trouble registering their vehicles, registering their property and even making doctor’s appointments for their kids.”
Medina said Latino residents are also humans and greatly affect the Hattiesburg economy.
“Trump’s not realizing this is tearing families apart, including mine or maybe he does realize it, but doesn’t care,” Medina said. She said the Latino population in Hattiesburg faces the scary reality of deportation and being taken from their families for being undocumented immigrants.
“This is real for them,” she said. “We need a new immigration system.”
“I don’t have anything written down,” Branch said. “I just want to speak from the heart. How can [Trump] make executive orders that hurt so many people? We do everything we can to make Hattiesburg a good place. If no one runs against Palazzo, then I will run.”
Congressman Palazzo did not attend the Town Hall Meeting.
Employee of Pine Belt Action Network and organizer of the Town Hall Meeting Taylor Vines said “Daily laws and local elections are what really matters,” Vines said. “Views are being heard through events like this.”
The Women’s March Hattiesburg Huddle plans on continuing to network with other local groups. The groups will make an appearance in Canton, Miss. Saturday, March 4 for the “March on Mississippi, in which U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders will be in attendance. Students interested in the event may contact the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan by telephone at 601-859-2931.