Rep. Francis Rooney faces raucous crowds at town hall meetings

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NORTH NAPLES, Fla. Hundreds of voters in Florida’s U.S. House District 19 were eager to voice their concerns at at Rep. Francis Rooney’s town meetings Friday.

The first meeting took place in North Collier Regional Park, where nearly 300 people were in attendance.

Emotions ran wild as environmental concerns, Planned Parenthood, immigration and gun laws took center stage.

The meeting became especially heated during the question and answer session, as there were regular disruptions from the audience.

“I think in a lot of cases he dodged questions and really didn’t answer them, but it opened the line of communications and I think that’s what really matters,” said Kathleen Hendrix of the Marco Island Women Democrats.

This meeting came after Rooney faced harsh criticism from constituents that he hadn’t held one during the district work period last week.

‘I will not be silenced’

Rooney’s second town meeting at the First Baptist Church of Cape Coral proved to be just as heated.

The congressman fielded questions ranging from Lake Okeechobee, immigration, interrelations with Russia and the Affordable Care Act.

Until Katherine Freedman spoke.

The crowd erupted into cheers and jeers when the 64-year-old asked Rooney why he wanted to defund Planned Parenthood.

Rooney responded, saying there are already federally-funded clinics.

However, the argument escalated to the point where Rooney’s aide threatened to put the town hall in recess. Freedman also asked Rooney about President Trump’s Cabinet selections, which he refused to answer and ordered her to sit down.

Freedman was eventually escorted out by police.

“I will not be silent. I will not be silent. I will not,” she said. “I will not have my grandchildren ask me 20 years from now, ‘What’d you do grandma?’ And I say, ‘Some man silenced me so I sat down.'”

Despite the contentious environment, Rooney believes he’s ready to answer the tough questions.

“It’s why our country is unique, it’s not some authoritarian dictatorship,” he said. “It’s not some place where the leaders are removed from the people, I like being right here with our constituents and the members of our community.”

Several others also voiced their concerns about President Trump’s behavior, but Rooney assured them it’s the early innings to a long game and that Trump’s congressional speech was a step in the right direction.

Here’s more from WINK News reporter Kim Powell:

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