Hundreds Gather at Montana Capitol to Protest Daines

Republican U.S. Senator canceled scheduled Tuesday appearance before Montana Legislature

By Matt Volz | Associated Press

HELENA — Hundreds of protesters who were upset that U.S. Sen. Steve Daines wasn’t planning a town hall this week decided to bring one to him instead outside of the Montana Capitol, where Daines was scheduled to address the state Legislature on Tuesday.

Daines canceled his appearance at the last minute, prompting boos and jeers from the crowd that spilled from the Capitol steps onto the lawn. The demonstration went on, anyway.

“What a coward!” said Katherine Haque-Hausrath, one of the organizers. “If he doesn’t listen to us now, he can listen to us in 2020 in the election.”

Daines rescheduled his appearance before the state Legislature for Wednesday, when he also plans to visit a school and hold a news conference on Neil Gorsuch’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination. His office released a statement saying the senator “welcomes the opinions of everyone from the Treasure State.”

Protesters across the nation are greeting members of Congress who are home this week for a recess. Many of the demonstrators in Helena reflected the concerns of other groups, particularly about President Donald Trump’s order to restrict refugee and immigration arrivals, his plans to roll back President Barack Obama’s health care reforms and his cabinet selections.

Many there also objected to Daines gaveling down Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the presiding officer during the debate on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ nomination.

“I’m here with my daughter, and I want her to know that real men are not afraid to listen to women and they can’t tell her to sit down,” said Camas Sturm Kakuk, standing next to her 5-year-old daughter.

Others said they objected to Daines’ vote for Betsy DeVos as education secretary after she gave him tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

Daines held a constituent teleconference last week. Participants in Tuesday’s demonstration accused Daines of ducking them and said a phone conference was insufficient.

“People need to be able to see their senators face to face, ask questions and have a conversation,” said Al Beaver, a protester from Helena.

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