By MARK FREEMAN
Six protesters were arrested Monday evening when the Occupy Wall Street movement moved into Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden’s Medford office for a sit-in to protest what they see as Walden’s selling out of his votes to big business.
Eight protesters arrived at Walden’s downtown office at about 11 a.m. and took over the office’s conference room while demanding Walden hold a round of public town hall meetings to hear from constituents about how economic policies and his votes have hurt constituents in his 2nd Congressional District.
Six of the protesters insisted they would not leave until arrested, and Medford police accommodated them shortly after the building’s 6 p.m. closure by escorting them out individually and free of handcuffs.
Many waved to supporters standing in the cold Middleford Alley as they were placed in a waiting van and driven to the Medford Police Department, where they were cited on a misdemeanor trespass charge, given court appearance dates and released.
“They were very civil, very polite,” Medford police Lt. Greg Lemhouse said.
A simultaneous protest at Walden’s Bend office led to a handful of arrests shortly after 6 p.m. as well, Walden spokesman Andrew Whelan said from Washington, D.C., where Walden was on Monday.
Whelan said they called police because the protesters could not be left alone in the office and their disruption of constituent service needed to end.
“It was pretty clear what they were aiming for,” Whelan said. “At a certain point you have to wrap it up.”
The so-called “Occupy Walden” effort was to showcase protesters’ demand that Walden hold five well-publicized and open town-hall meetings in the next five months “so he gets real feedback from real people, not just his buddies who give him money,” said Allen Hallmark, one of the arrested protesters and a former chairman of the Jackson County Democratic Party.
Rob Patridge, Walden’s district director, met with the protesters and told them Walden has held a dozen town-hall meetings so far this year throughout his vast district, which includes Medford and all of Eastern Oregon.
In fact, Patridge said, Walden already has town-hall meetings set for Dec. 28 in Fossil and Rufus. Walden has visited Medford about once a month since his election 13 years ago and has planned more town-hall meetings here, Patridge said.
While Walden may have a record of town-hall meetings, protesters said their demands were a symbol of how those most affected by changing economic policies have no voice in the current Congress.
“The meetings are a symptom of the problem, but not the problem,” said Herbert Rothschild, a Phoenix resident and Ashland Peace House member who was one of those arrested. “People with wealth have much better access than people who don’t.
“The real issue here is not Mr. Walden’s schedule,” Rothschild said. “The real issue is Mr. Walden’s votes. His votes are for Wall Street, not our street.”
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.