If only they had answered their phones, staffers in Senator Ted Cruz’s office would not have had to shut down the senator’s downtown Houston district office and rely upon the Houston Police Department to clear constituents from the building.
Constituents have been calling their senators daily to register their deep concerns and objections to various Trump appointees. Rarely, a caller gets through to a staffer; most of the the time, calls go to voicemail. Increasingly, the voicemail inboxes (in district offices and in the Washington office) have been full, unable to accept new messages.
Frustrated at being unable to reach their elected representative, 28 people met Tuesday morning to visit the senator’s district office a little after 9 am. Someone brought donuts for the staff.
Four constituents were allowed into the reception area, and two spoke to a staff member, who told them the senator would only meet with representatives of groups, and then, only with an appointment.
Which had to be scheduled by phone.
Building security approached those who had not been invited into the reception area and asked them to leave.
The building manager came next, warning that the police would be called.
Confused as to why they were unable to enter the senator’s office, even if only to schedule a meeting on another day, the constituents remained.
As threatened, the police were called. In the meantime, the staffers closed up the office and left for the day.
Several people brought letters with them to deliver in case no one was available to speak with them. They were denied access to the building to deliver the letters, and were unable to leave them at the building’s front desk.
This video shows the interaction between the locked-out constituents and the police, which was calm and civil, including this exchange:
HPD Officer #1: Right now, y’all are being asked to leave the property right now. The building owner doesn’t want you in the property. It is private property, so if you refuse to leave, you can be arrested for trespassing.
Constituent: OK, but, there’s plenty of room in the senator’s office for us …
HPD Officer #1: Right now, you’re being asked to leave the property. If you do not leave the property, you will be arrested for trespassing.
Constituent: So, will you escort us out.
HPD Officer #2: Yeah, we can do that.
HPD Officer #1: OK, let’s go.
By 1 pm, more constituents had arrived at the office, only to learn that the staff was gone, the office locked, and building security on alert to refuse them admission to the building without an appointment. Which they could get—you guessed it—if they would just call first.
Denied access even to the building, a crowd of approximately 60 assembled peacefully, if boisterously, on the sidewalk. Unable to speak to staffers or schedule meetings, those who stayed switched tactics, staging an ad hoc demonstration.
One concerned citizen, disappointed at being unable to reach Senator Cruz, forwarded the video below. It was sent along with this comment from Indivisible Houston:
What we saw today was the exercise of democracy and the First Amendment for a better, healthier republic. No matter what side of the aisle you are on, we all believe in representation. It’s what this country is founded on. We peacefully protested, holding up our own end as citizens. It’s too bad Ted Cruz thinks he is too elite to speak to us.
Ted Cruz’s office should commit to staying open during the hours it says it will, and find some way to talk to more than a few of the many constituents knocking on his door because of the White House’s unqualified donor class nominees and the Republican plan to Make America Sick Again.
We’re here to talk. Does he work for us, or does he work for Trump?
The constitution, a document Ted Cruz knows intimately, is fairly clear about who senators represent. His constituents are encouraged to continue phoning Senator Cruz’s offices to share their concerns about Trump’s cabinet appointees. His website lists all of his office phone numbers, including district offices in Texas and the D.C. office.
Be polite, but be persistent.
The constituents who were unable to schedule a meeting today adjourned to a FedEx office, where they sent the letters they hoped to deliver by hand via overnight mail instead. It is unclear whether staffers will be present or the office unlocked to sign for the delivery.
If you are so fortunate as to get a meeting scheduled, make sure you are prepared. The League of Women Voters is one of many organizations that provides helpful guidance online to prepare you for a meeting with your elected representatives.
Editor’s update: There was a similar visit to Cruz’s Austin office today as well. 122 people were told that they had to wait outside the Federal Building to meet with a staff member. They were not allowed in the building. Indivisible Austin organized this action and posted a great video on their blog. Local press, including The Austin American Statesman has covered this encounter. So far, The Houston Chronicle has yet to publish anything about the lock out in Houston. Rather, they’re publishing Cruz’s Twitter back and forth with Deadspin about his weekly Republican baseball game.