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Statewide town hall meeting takes place without Oklahoma’s senators

M. Tim Blake / Red Dirt Report
The evening’s panel, sans Senators Lankford and Inhofe.
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MIDWEST CITY, Okla. – Even though Oklahoma’s U.S. Senators chose not to hold any public town hall meetings during the legislative break, Indivisible Oklahoma held one for them. And although they were invited, they chose not to attend this past weekend’s meeting.

Roughly 1,000 Oklahomans gathered in an auditorium at Rose State College Saturday evening in order to attend the town hall. Hosted by Indivisible Oklahoma, the meeting featured Oklahomans who had asked for their stories to be heard by a panel.

The evening’s panel included former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, State Rep. Scott Inman (D-Del City), State Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman), Director of the Oklahoma Sierra Club Johnson Bridgwater, Director of Freedom Oklahoma Troy Stevenson and Director of the Oklahoma Council on American and Islamic Relations Adam Soltani.

There were two empty seats, one each for U.S. Senators James Lankford and Jim Inhofe.

Each attendee was given two cards, one red, to wave if they disagreed with something a speaker said and one which was green, to wave in agreement.

The meeting was spirited, yet mostly civil. Items which were discussed were the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, education reform, LGBTQ/discrimination issues, and issues involving the environment, such as pollution and global climate change.

Before the meeting, several groups such as those represented in the panel, had booths outside the auditorium with information for interested attendees.

David Glover speaks of the importance of being registered for “online voting.”

Tom Gallagher, left, and Victor Gorin, right, representing Amnesty International, speak with an attendee.

Jennifer Harmon spoke of James Lankford’s response to a letter she’d sent to the Senator, and of President Trump’s delaying health care for returning veterans. She said, “Taking care of our vets is an American issue, not a partisan issue.”

Brie Parker wanted to ask the absent Senators, “Have you ever had to tell your kid you can’t [afford to] go to the doctor?”

Sherry Willis, who is Native American, described the plight of her husband, who lost his job due to an illness, and her father who had to live in a nursing center.

Oklahoma State Rep. Scott Inman, said that he “believes that the institution of American education is the best in the world.” He also said, addressing Oklahoma’s budget crisis, “We are socializing the risks of the oil and gas industry, and privatizing the profits.”

Troy Stevenson spoke to the need of civility as we all go about our daily lives. He also said, “What we need is to show up on Election Day, and take back our government and quit complaining about it.”

Oklahoma Sierra Club Director Johnson Bridgwater said, “Climate change is real, and Co2 must be regulated.”

Oklahoma State Rep. Emily Virgin.

The evening’s emcee, Beverly Perry.

Bowman Domingue, an OU student, spoke of attending Muslim Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol, and getting Rep. John Bennett's (R-Sallisaw) questionnaire concerning the Muslim Faith.

Adam Soltani Executive Directer of CAIR-OK, described his experiences with Islamaphobia and Rep. John Bennett. He also pointed out, “Just because we give freedoms to one group, doesn't mean we take freedoms from another, and to be an advocate for minority rights.”

Tables set up outside the auditorium by groups represented by the evening’s panelists.

Steve Schaben told attendees of his diagnosis of a brain tumor, and the surgery that saved his life, which was paid for by the Affordable Care Act.

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, said of the meeting, “This is the start of something, not the ending.”

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M. Tim Blake

M. Tim Blake is a photographer with three decades of experience.  His work includes...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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