The last two Town Hall Meetings have demonstrated an unsettling trend toward abusing a forum that was meant to inform neighborhoods in their local community centers and recreation centers. Up until the last two that was pretty much the way it worked. Lafayette Coming Together has passed out a thousand flyers in each of the areas around the neighborhoods to encourage attendance at the forum. Most of the attendees have appeared to come from the immediate region and to have basic questions about the mechanics of the project.
Then came the Clifton Chenier meeting where both National Public Radio (Flash: NPR should air this story about 5:15 this afternoon, Wednesday, 13th.) and Louisiana Public Broadcastings's "Louisiana, The State We Are In" were scheduled to appear. Fiber411 broadcast a plea to attend in the hopes of effecting the national and state coverage but that particular idea came to naught. More disturbingly, two protesters bearing a batch of yellow NO signs showed up on the other side of Willow street from the entrance to the complex. Out of sight of the entrance to the event they planted yellow signs and marched up and down in front of the entrance to....the shopping center. According to folks from the surrounding neighborhood these guys weren't from around there, and in fact, weren't from the city _or_ the parish. They were from St. Landry. And a man named Brooks appeared to be associated with them but did not himself protest. These are the guys captured on the LPB video saying they were going to vote against it and then backpedaling about being a voter. (The video, look for about minute 5:30)
Here is a picture of one of them, pulled from the LPB video; watch closely you'll see him again.
The picture got clearer--and worse--at the next town hall meeting at the Martin Luther King Center. At that meeting the imported protesters showed up late, together in a Van but trickled in separately and sat in different places. The same man, Brooks, sat in the back and the other two set in front of him. They both asked a single, anti question, made no move to follow up, waited awhile and then got up and left. Brooks took them back to the car and left. They were recognized going into the building an personally challenged one who seemed to agree that he was from St. Landry.
Pictures of each of the men asking questions, a picture of Brooks, a picture of them leaving early together:
This is old-fashioned politics at its worst. It's hard to imagine an innocent story for bringing in people to wave signs and ask hostile questions by folks from out of the parish. Why? Who knows. But someone is willing to engage resources that Lafayette locals no longer are willing to supply. Moving in on a neighborhood meeting in this way and foreclosing their chance to ask their questions in order to play to the media is unfair and dishonest. People ought not be doing it.