Locals Hold ‘Empty Chair’ Town Hall in Feinstein’s Absence

Approximately 60 groups came together under the “Indivisible East Bay” umbrella to hold an “empty chair” town hall for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in Oakland on Sunday, despite the senator’s absence.

“We are working with the senator’s staff and trying to build a relationship with our representative,” Liz Kelly, a spokeswoman for Indivisible East Bay, told the East Bay Times. “This isn’t a protest of the senator herself … but making sure there is a degree of openness.”

Groups representing Feinstein’s 15,000 constituents reportedly recorded questions and statements over social media which they plan to send to Feinstein and the press, according to the imes. The empty chair town hall was held at Elmhurst Community Prep in Oakland.

Feinstein’s constituents raised the alarm when she refused to hold any town halls during Congress’s week-long recess.

She reportedly could not attend Sunday’s event because she was traveling back to Washington, D.C., for Monday’s session in the Senate. However, on Friday, she spoke at a ticketed event at the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco Friday. (Tickets to the event were free.)

During Sunday’s empty chair town hall, posters and constituents used creative methods to send their message to Feinstein:

A note on the description for the event’s Facebook page noted, “We have gotten confirmation from Senator Feinstein’s office that she will NOT be attending this event. While we are disappointed in this decision, it will not change our plans — the event is still on!”

8,500 people indicated they were “interested” in attending Sunday’s event, and 2,600 responded that they “attended.” However, the Times reported that Liz Kelley, a spokeswoman for Indivisible East Bay, said about 600 people were present.

During Sunday’s event, protesters held up signs calling for Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) to run for Feinstein’s seat in 2018.

In a post on the empty chair town hall’s Facebook page, the group wrote that they organized Sunday’s event “to float the idea and received 99.9% positive reactions from the hundreds of people there. The main concern people had was getting a Representative as progressive as Lee to replace her in the 13th District when she becomes Senator.”

Congress will have its next recess in April.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter and Periscope @AdelleNaz


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