MN Congressman says he'll shut down his town hall if there's shouting

Rep. Tom Emmer will hold a town hall in Sartell on Wednesday.
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Mindful of the vociferous reaction some of his Republican colleagues have received at town halls in recent weeks, Rep. Tom Emmer is calling for a calmer response ahead of his own in Minnesota Wednesday.

The congressman for Minnesota's 6th District warned those planning to attend his town hall event in Sartell not to be disruptive. Otherwise, he'll walk.

"Tomorrow night, we are looking forward to a productive and healthy conversation for the Congressman to hear the thoughts, concerns and suggestions from his constituents," Rep. Emmer's Chief of Staff David FitzSimmons said in a press statement sent to GoMN.

"However, should this event turn into a disruptive display, or if there are any violent actions or threats, we will end the meeting and be forced to reassess our policy on town halls going forward."

His office says that "disruptive" actions include chanting or shouting from those in attendance.

The Pioneer Press reports that activist groups have been encouraging members to attend Emmer's town hall, and protest outside if they can't get in.

Some lawmakers avoiding town halls after trouble

Emmer has been a big proponent of town halls, with his office saying he has held 24 of the events in the past 24 months, and describes them as being "helpful to hear from the people he represents when looking at issues facing this nation."

But Emmer said the recent reports of disruptive behavior at town halls held by his colleagues – including Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee – "have been troubling."

During those town halls, the two lawmakers were shouted at, and heard emotional pleas from voters, many of which were concerned about what would happen to health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is dismantled, CNN reports.

"What should be an open and respectful forum to discuss ideas and opinions have often turned into shouting, chanting, and other disruptive behavior, from which no one benefits," Emmer's office said.

In a separate story, CNN says that some Republican members of Congress have recently taken to avoiding town halls altogether, seeking "less confrontational venues" to engage with constituents instead.

Time notes that this marks a turnaround for the Republican Party, which used town halls to "channel outrage" at the Obama administration in 2009, with NPR saying this effort was aided by the burgeoning Tea Party movement.

Emmer's town hall meeting will be held at Sartell City Hall, 125 Pine Cone Road N., starting 7 p.m.

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