About half-dozen protesters greeted U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, outside the Strongsville Senior Center on Monday before he spoke to district business leaders about his tax reform agenda.
The protesters stood about 30 feet away from the building on the other side of police barricades. About 18 Strongsville officers stood in the parking lot and on the roof wearing bulletproof vests and carrying semi-automatic rifles. Two police dogs also were on patrol.
Some people entering the building for their morning workouts at 7 a.m. expressed confusion about the level of police presence.
“It looks like the cops are getting some easy overtime,” said Strongsville resident Kelly Randolph, as she made her way across the parking lot to work out at the complex.
Strongsville Police Chief Mark Fender said the force assembled was routine protection for a “visiting dignitary,” which includes any member of Congress or similarly high-ranking official.
“It’s what we do to ensure a peaceful meeting,” Fender said. The force was not assembled in response to any specific threat, he said.
The Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus and the Medina Patriot Resistance sent about seven protesters from across the three counties Renacci represents in Congress — Cuyahoga, Medina and Stark.
Most of the protesters complained that Renacci does not hold enough town hall meetings to allow his constituents to voice their concerns.
John Leonard of the Medina group was able to enter the building and attend the event. Contacted after the breakfast, Leonard said he “stood up and asked for a town hall about people who are soon to lose health insurance” due to Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
He said he was asked by police to leave after his outburst, and he did.
Renacci spokeswoman Kelsey Knight said Leonard was asked to leave after he shouted “You kill people” as the congressman began speaking.
Knight said the congressman continued his remarks about tax reform to the Strongsville Business Network.
“He believes in the importance of his plans to change this country’s dated tax codes to make America great again,” she said. “He wants to make America competitive again so that we can bring back jobs.”
She added that Renacci would
co-host a “tele-town hall” with fellow Ohio congressman and Ways and Means Committee member U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Galena, next week. Constituents will be able to email questions about tax reform and health care reform to members ahead of and during the event, which will be webcast.
Knight said Renacci has hosted more than 100 town halls in his district since his election five years ago but that the legislative schedule of the past year has prevented him from traveling outside Washington, D.C., as frequently as in the past.
Leonard said his group had planned to have demonstrators continuously stand and disrupt Monday’s event the same way he did, but “no other volunteers were willing to engage in that activity.”
Contact reporter Marina Malenic at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.