ADVOCACY TACTICS for TOWN HALLS/LISTENING SESSIONS: OUTLINE OF STEPS
MoCs (Members of Congress – Senators or Representatives) regularly hold local “town halls” or public listening sessions throughout their district or state, which can be used to directly pressure the MoCs and to attract media to your cause.
Find out when your MoC’s next public town hall event is. Find this online or by calling MoC directly.
Send out a notice of the Town Hall to your group, and get commitments from members to attend. Provide to them info on your MoC’s voting record.
Prepare several questions ahead of time from your group to ask. Questions should be sharp and fact-based. (See sample question in The Guide, page 17.)
NOTE: Consider pros and cons of bringing a sign(s).
AT THE TOWN HALL
Get there early, meet up, and get organized. Have a quick huddle to distribute the handout of questions; request members to ask these questions or something similar.
Get seated and spread out. Sit by yourself or in groups of two throughout the room for impression of broad consensus.
Make your voices heard by asking good questions. When floor is opened for questions, everyone in your group should put their hands up and keep them there. Look friendly or neutral.
Guidelines when asking questions:
- Stick with the prepared list of questions; can read straight from the printout if necessary.
- Be polite but persistent, and demand real answers. If MoC dodges, ask follow-up question.
If answers are not “real,” call them out for it.
Other members of the group should boo the MoC or applaud you to amplify.
- Don’t give up the mic until you’re satisfied with the answer.
Keep a firm hold on mic in case staffer tries to take mic back immediately to limit your follow-up if your question is hostile.
If persists, say loudly: “I’m not finished. The MoC is dodging my question. Why are you trying to stop me from following up?”
- Keep the pressure on. After first member of your group finishes, everyone should raise hands again. Next member called on should move onto next question on list. Each member continues to move down question list.
Support the group and reinforce the message. Everyone should applaud after each member of your group asks a question. Each member should note they’re building on the previous questions – to amplify that you’re part of a broad group.
Record everything! Assign someone in group to use smart phone or video camera to record the questioning and answering.
NOTE: Prior to recording, familiarize yourself with your state and local laws that govern recording, and any applicable Senate or House rules. Rules vary substantially.
AFTER THE TOWN HALL
Reach out to media during and after the town hall. If media is at TH, the question askers should approach them afterward and offer to speak about their concerns. After event, engage local reporters on Twitter or by email, offering to provide in-person account of what happened, plus any related video footage. (See example of Twitter outreach in The Guide, page 19.)
Share everything. Post pictures, videos, your thoughts, etc. to social media afterward. Encourage others to share widely.
Derived from INDIVISIBLE: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, CHAPTER 4: FOUR LOCAL ADVOCACY TACTICS THAT ACTUALLY WORK