Today is the beginning of an event bringing the 99% to Congress. In Washington this week, I decide to follow a group trying to meet with Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24), because I am a constituent of his. He never holds town halls and does very little press (and does very little in Congress), so I'm somewhat anxious to meet with him. My group has about 15 people, some from Good Jobs L.A. and elsewhere in California, some from New York. I speak with Pastor Stuart Parham, a visionary who wants to power the entire city of Watts on 87 acres of former CRA land. I speak with a woman who wants to know how to use a smartphone...but first wants a job so that she can stop being homeless. We march down the National Mall, chanting in both English and Spanish, spirits high. Along the way, I tell them of Gallegly's track record in Congress, which consists mostly of introducing the same bill to repeal the 14th Amendment and deny citizenship to children of immigrants, year after year for the last 20 years.
We arrive at Rep. Gallegly's office at 12:30 PM. The office is closed for lunch, although other representatives' doors are wide open. At 1 PM a staffer shows up with a styrofoam container, presumably leftovers, and a set of keys. He tells us that Gallegly can't meet with us because he's on an airplane flying in to DC for a vote this afternoon, and won't meet with us because we're not constituents. I tell him I'm a constituent. The staffer agrees to let me and my friends into the office to wait. But instead of opening the door, he walks away, whips out his Blackberry, and ducks into a side office.
Things get weirder.
The staffer refuses to open the door. I fume that I'm locked out of my own Congresscritter's office. Another staffer enters through the secret side door.
The Congressional police are called.
At one point, five staffers are inside, presumably cowering in fear behind the locked door. They answer phones, but hang up as soon as they hear that I'm in the hallway.
We stand outside and hold a general assembly with two police officers listening. Whenever we sit, we are warned that we will be arrested if we sit.
The mail is not delivered because the office refuses to unlock the door.
At 3 PM, the Representative himself exits the side door to head to an elevator. Two dozen tired, footsore members of the 99 percent chase after him. He tells several people that they are not constituents so he doesn't have to meet with them.
I push forward and tell him that I am a constituent.
He makes me recite my home address, in front of two dozen folk including security, to verify that I am, in fact, a constituent.
He gives me a practiced, polished politician's smile and says, "Merry Christmas."
We try to talk with him about jobs.
He tells us that he just donated 750 toys to children this weekend.
We ask to meet with him.
He tells everyone else that he doesn't have to meet with any of them because they're not his constituents.
As for me...he repeats that oozing smile and tells me, "I met with you just now - I wished you a Merry Christmas."