Protesters again greet McConnell appearance at home

By Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press | Posted - Feb. 24, 2017 at 7:16 p.m.



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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Protesters who shadowed Mitch McConnell during his home state appearances this week are vowing to keep tracking the Senate majority leader whenever he returns to Kentucky.

More than 200 protesters chanted and held signs Friday evening across the street from a Louisville conference center where McConnell and other Republicans were celebrating the GOP's sweeping fall victories.

Protesters chanted "Ditch Mitch, dump Trump" and "We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter."

Protesters also raised questions about President Donald Trump's connections to Russia and called for an investigation. They also posed questions on issues ranging from health care and immigration to free speech rights that they said would ask the longtime Republican senator if he would meet with them.

"We will continue to hunt for Mitch any time he's in Kentucky until he agrees to a town hall," said Kim Hibbard, who helped organize the protest.

After attending a Chamber of Commerce event earlier in the week, McConnell was asked by a reporter why he doesn't attend town hall events. McConnell replied: "I thought we had a lot of the general public here, plus a whole lot of others today. I'm perfectly open."

Reena Paracha said Friday she attended protests at events in Lawrenceburg, Louisville and Covington this week but never saw the senator.

"He is so afraid of the people ... right now," she said. "He doesn't even have the guts to come out and speak to any of us."

Hibbard said that McConnell chooses to attend public events where he speaks to friendly audiences and doesn't face any pushback. She said protesters have been gathering outside McConnell's office in downtown Louisville once a week and will continue doing so at least through 100 days of Trump's presidency.

In his speech, McConnell defended the protesters' right to speak out but said they reflect a "distinct minority" in conservative Kentucky. When McConnell talked about their motivation, it provoked a derisive comment from someone in the crowd. As McConnell said "I think they're mostly," he paused, and someone in the audience shouted "losers." The audience broke out in laughter and applause.

McConnell then continued, saying they are "deeply liberal people who are really having a very hard time accepting the results of the election."

McConnell predicted that Republicans in Washington can fuel strong economic growth by reducing regulations, repealing and replacing the health care law, and revamping the federal tax code.

"What the American people have done here is they've given us a lot of responsibility," he said. "But voters are fickle, and they should be. And we've got to perform, or this won't last."

McConnell also warned that Republicans should avoid any feelings of "hubris" for their election victories and congressional majorities.

"I think staying humble is a better way to do it," McConnell said.

The Kentucky Enquirer reported Friday that two women who protested during McConnell's appearance Thursday in Covington were arrested when they refused to leave and were charged with criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Protesters on Friday evening voiced their objections to GOP efforts to undo President Barack Obama's health care law as well as to Trump's immigration policies.

Paracha said McConnell needs to "grow a spine" and stand up to Trump instead of serving as his "enabler" in the Senate. "People that have never had health care and got it under the ACA will now not have it," she said.

Paracha, a native of Pakistan who is a U.S. citizen and lives in Kentucky, also said Trump's immigration policies are unconstitutional and immoral.

The protest ended after about 90 minutes as a thunderstorm pushed through Louisville.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bruce Schreiner

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