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Behind the scenes of the protest targeting Republican Congressman Dave Reichert

In a Fremont conference room, about a dozen people pored over a hand-drawn map of the area around Republican Congressman Dave Reichert's office over in Issaquah. 

This is the specter currently haunting President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress: a left-wing Tea Party movement – led by paid protesters – that aims to disrupt their Town Halls and other public events across the country.

In an email, Washington State Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison warned that “Democrats are planning an all-out effort of mayhem and disruption to undermine the results of the 2016 elections.”

It's true that Erin Haick and Shaine Truscott were getting paid to be there in Fremont. They both work for a union, the SEIU.

But Haick and Truscott, who were leading the session, called it "peacekeeper training."

All of the other people there for the training were volunteers. Three of them were bus drivers. And they were getting a crash course on how de-escalate tense situations at protests. The focus of the session is on how to have an orderly march, and on what to do if things start to get out of control.

And the next day in Issaquah, most of the volunteers were there outside Reichert's office, ringing the crowd in brightly colored vests.

The crowd itself is made up of hundreds of people, most of whom say they live in Reichert’s 8th Congressional district, which runs from Kent to Chelan. None said they were being paid -- or at least admitted to it.

Mardie Rhodes, who has lived in the district for the last 20 years, says, she’s here because "Reichert refuses to meet with us face to face. And in this day and age of contentious politics, it's important for us to meet eye to eye."

One of the complaints here is that Reichert didn't schedule any town halls or other public meetings for this congressional recess visit. He cites security concerns, and even led a session for his Republican colleagues in the other Washington on how to ensure security at their public events, drawing on his background as a former King County sheriff.

But Rhodes is not persuaded. "We're really not wanting to fight with him," she said. “We're wanting to have a conversation." 

If she got the chance, Rhodes said, she would to ask Reichert what he supports about the Affordable Care Act. She says she worked at a community health center for 16 years.

“I saw firsthand what happens when people get health care for the first time," she said. "They cry. They are so grateful they cry. We can't take that away from people."

[asset-audio[{"description": "Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington state talks with KCTS-9 about why he's not doing town hall-style public events and about President Donald Trump's travel ban.", "fid": "134152", "uri": "npraudio://201702/NEWS_20170224_ReichertFB.mp3"}]]Reichert wasn't in Issaquah to answer their questions. But over in Seattle, he did field questions about health care (and other topics) in a closed-door Facebook Live event at KCTS-9.

In response to a question about health care, Reichert said his constituents should expect a detailed Republican plan to replace Obamacare in March.

But he won’t be holding town hall-style meetings back home to discuss it – or anything else

“I'm not willing to place my staff in a security situation," he said at the closed event. "I'm not willing to put my constituents’ safety at risk."

Reichert cites recent threats to staff in his own office, and other threats to members of Congress around the country. And he said that in general, big unruly public meetings are not “productive.” He said he was willing to meet with smaller groups in a respectful conversation.

But the people outside his office in Issaquah say they just want a chance to make their concerns heard, peacefully.

Raylene Canby of Sammamish says she would ask him, "why he wants to repeal the ACA, and why he won't show his face and speak to his constituents, in person."

KUOW reached out to Congressman Reichert for this story, but he declined to be interviewed.

Year started with KUOW: 2004