At an outdoor town hall meeting on Sunday hosted by Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA), a fight broke out among Porter supporters and opponents, leading to one arrest and a dark cloud over what was supposed to be an easy constituent event.
Held at Mike Ward Community Park in Irvine, the meeting initially started out okay, with Congresswoman Porter only briefly telling people not to shout so that everyone could hear.
“This is an outdoor activity; we have a lot of wind,” said Porter early on in the event. “So I’m going to ask that everyone, regardless of your views, try to keep your voices down and be quiet so we can have a conversation.”
I'm looking forward to being in conversation with Orange County families at my town hall tomorrow about how investing in child care will make our economy stronger. I'll dive more into this at tomorrow’s event (join me at 3 PM at Mike Ward Community Park!), but here's a preview 👇 pic.twitter.com/8iUXobjJax
— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) July 10, 2021
During her “Policy in the Park” event, Porter talked about climate change and increased child care while also fielding questions ranging from PPP loans to gun control. However, her stances on some issues led to increased questions from the crowd, snowballing to opponents shouting phrases such as “Carpetbagger Katie” and “Corrupt Katie Porter,” with her supporters chanting back “Katie” over and over again.
That’s when many in the crowd began fighting, with many landing punches. Irvine police soon intervened, breaking up the fight, while Porter herself protected an elderly woman by putting her arms around her.
“I don’t know which side threw the first punch, but I do know that it was quickly escalating,” said Orange County resident Henry Powell to the Globe on Monday. “A bunch of people had actually started just quietly talking with each other about Porter, calling her a disgrace for things she did during her first term. Supporters got upset, and it became louder. They started interrupting more and more, so supporters just started chanting her name.”
“I got away from that area only a few moments before people got into fisticuffs, but when I heard the uproar and looked back to see the fight, I wasn’t surprised. Both sides were angry, and supporters were egging them on it seemed.”
The Irvine Police Department initially arrested one Porter supporter at the scene, wrote up an assault and battery report, and looked over for any injuries, only to find that any injuries sustained were minor. The Porter supporter was ultimately not charged but was given a citation for their role.
One arrested following melee in Irvine
In a statement later on Sunday, Porter said she would continue holding these town hall meetings, but also noted her disappointment with the fight.
“It is disappointing that a small but vocal group of attendees, who advertised a ‘confrontation rally,’ created unsafe conditions at a planned family-friendly event,” Representative Porter said in a statement on Sunday. “While I absolutely respect their right to disagree, their disturbance disrespected all the families who attended and were ready to engage in a thoughtful, civil and safe way.”
“My team and I are evaluating next steps, but my promise to Orange County families is that I will continue to hold town halls and to be in conversation with them.”
While experts noted that the incident was relatively minor, many pointed out that it proves just how vulnerable Porter’s seat is in 2022.
“The real takeaway here is this exposing just how unpredictable keeping this is for Porter come next year,” explained Orange County pollster Maria Hillegass to the Globe on Monday. “Out of the four Orange County Congressional seats taken by the Dems during the blue wave 2018 election, hers was the only one not taken back in 2020. And it was close, less than a 20,000 vote difference, 53.5% to 46.5%.”
“And she’s a Democratic darling. Relatively young, she was one of the first, and the first from a swing district, to come out as an impeachment supporter against Donald Trump, and has become nationally known for her whiteboard presentations during Congressional meetings.”
“So far she’s been pretty stable. But with this fight, as well as Orange County tipping back towards Republicans, cracks are starting to form. She hasn’t been this unifying force, but rather one splitting the district apart. And that can have huge implications for the election next year and district realigning.”
More Porter town halls are expected in the near future as the campaign season for the 2022 race nears.
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