An Insider’s View Of The Toms River Tom MacArthur Protest [Editorial]
Much has been written across local social media since yesterday evening about the protest outside of the WOBM studios before, during, and after 3rd District Representative Tom MacArthur’s (R) appearance on “Ask the Congressman”.
I’ve seen plenty of comments about “snowflakes”, “paid protesters”, and other terms that I won’t repeat here.
I’ve also seen lots written about the Congressman’s lack of in-person town hall events.
I want to set the record straight. I was there.
I was not a part of the protests, nor was I involved in the broadcast, or with Mr. MacArthur's team.
I was just working a normal day at the office when all of this happened. I paid attention as it developed, I listened to the show, and I encountered the protesters when it was time to leave work.
Here are my observations:
The protesters were loosely organized and local
Word spread organically on social media of the planned demonstration. Organizers encouraged attendees to include their zip codes on their signs to show that they are indeed constituents, and not “paid protesters” brought in from elsewhere, as some have claimed.
The protest was vocal, but peaceful
Protesters chanted slogans and made their presence known. There were a few back-and-forth exchanges between demonstrators and those who disagreed with them, however there were never any violent confrontations.
The crowd was controlled and cooperative
Both Toms River Police and Ocean County Sheriff Deputies were on hand for crowd control. When it was time for me to leave work, the police that I spoke to were at ease and friendly. There was no sense of “us vs. them”, there was no tension. When the police cleared the driveway for me to leave, the crowd was cooperative and relaxed.
Callers were focused on local issues
The callers who spoke to Mr. MacArthur on the air asked about concerns to them locally. Environmental issues, healthcare, tax issues, and educational concerns were among some of the issues brought up. And some of the calls came from those in the crowd outside. The topic of Mr. MacArthur’s thoughts on President Trump did come up on at least one occasion, but there was in no way a feeling of either the protest or the show being an “anti-Trump” movement.
Congressman MacArthur listened to callers calmly and respectfully
What impressed me the most about the show itself was the tone of the program. The callers were both respectful, yet clear with their concerns, and Mr. MacArthur listened respectfully. Many times he said, “I hear you, and I understand what you’re saying”. There were a few moments of tension when people were speaking over each other, but there was never a time where voices were raised to inappropriate levels.
Mr. MacArthur spoke to the crowd in person after the show
While the Congressman’s entrance to the building was carefully controlled, after the program he took time to speak to the demonstrators in person. He could have been hustled into a car by security and rushed out, but I think that the non-threatening tone of the evening and the clearly stated concerns of the protesters encouraged a safe and respectful exchange between an elected representative and his constituents.
It saddens me to see some of the charges, name calling, and misinformation that is being passed around afterword, and I think that it is the perfect example of what is wrong in politics right now.
It’s also interesting and important to note that the most vocal critics of last night’s events were not even there.
Whether I agree with the protesters or not: I respect their right as Americans to express their concerns and opinions. I respect the fact that they let their concerns and opinions be known in a peaceful and respectful way.
Whether I agree with Congressman MacArthur or not: I respect the fact that he listened to the callers’ concerns and encouraged followup. And in a time where political tensions are at an all time high, where safety could be a true concern, I also respect Mr. MacArthur for taking the time to speak to the people who were there in person.
At a time when Congressman MacArthur is under fire for not holding traditional town halls in his district, I think that it was important for him to make that gesture. Did it fix what many see as a problem? No. But did it make important inroads with respectful detractors? Absolutely.
Last night’s events were a true example of the good that can come out of a political atmosphere like we have now. It has encouraged everyday Americans to express their concerns, as is the right of all of us as outlined in The Constitution, and it has encouraged our elected representatives to directly address those concerns, as they should be doing.
Last night, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together peacefully and respectfully and actually spoke with each other, not at each other.
Any other stories that you see, that seek to represent the events of last night differently are misinformed at best, and purposefully provocative at worst.
If you missed it, you can watch last night's "Ask the Congressman" below:
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of 92.7 WOBM, Townsquare Media, its employees, or advertisers.