Protesters from the north suburbs aired a mixed bag of grievances with U.S. Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) at his Northbrook office last week.
The five protesters who showed up Thursday for the speak-out, organized by liberal group Moveon.org, said they came to protest the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S., a recent vote to defund Planned Parenthood, the rising cost of health insurance and continued high rates of unemployment in the country.
“Even if you won, it doesn’t mean that you only get to represent the people who vote for you,” said Harold Bland of Northfield.
Dold was among the Republicans who won their elections to the House in November and gained majority control of that legislative body.
According to protester George Lewis of Zion, at least 20 people as well as a protest coordinator were supposed to show up at Dold’s office, which is on the third floor of an office building on Dundee Road.
Though he was in the midst of appointments, Dold set aside five minutes to meet with members of the group and listen to their concerns.
“We’d be interested in hearing how you feel about the budget,” said Susan Balaban, a Wilmette teacher who has been out of work for two years.
Dold said he thought spending cuts were necessary, but that both sides were to blame.
“We’ve seen an increase in spending on the Republican side and the Democrat side,” he said.
Citing his experience as president of his family’s pest extermination business, the freshman congressman added that he had wanted to take a businesslike approach to the budget problem, telling each department that it would have to set priorities in making spending cuts.
“That argument didn’t pass,” he said.
Balaban also brought up the recent congressional vote to prohibit federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
“Explain to me how that represents all of us when you take away funding from the poor to go to a doctor, to go to a clinic,” she said.
“I was one of seven Republicans who voted not to defund Planned Parenthood,” Dold countered.
Before he took off for his next meeting, Dold and the protesters shook hands.
“You’ve been very hospitable,” said Bland.
Although they left having shook hands, not all of the protesters felt they had been heard.
Northfield resident Susan Findlay said she had wanted to bring up health care but did not get the opportunity.
“My real concern is medical,” she said, explaining that she thought the U.S. should have a single-payer system for all citizens.
As she has grown older, Findlay said she has grown worried about the rising costs of health care. She called the government's inaction to lower the costs “meanness.”
Bland said the protest was inspired by the teacher protests in Wisconsin, and he had hoped more people would show up to speak out on that issue.
Lewis, too, hoped more people would have shown up.
“I wanted the protesting in Madison to spread to all major cities and be supported by all unions, with hundreds of thousands, hopefully millions across the nation, protesting and carrying signs,” he wrote later in an e-mail.
Unions and supporters have been demonstrating in Madison, WI, against legislation that would strip state union workers of their bargaining rights.
Lewis said he wanted the government to create tax incentives for companies to hire U.S. workers and to create a more progressive tax structure overall.
“Protesting and striking across the entire nation seems to be the only way this is going happen,” he said.