MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Dave Dvorak had never attended a constituent meeting with his local congressman, but on Friday the Minneapolis man showed up at “Congress on Your Corner” with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison to exercise the democracy he felt was threatened by a shooting last week at a similar event in Tucson.
“I think maybe some good came out of this tragic incident in that it reminded all of us that it’s truly important to participate in our democracy,” said Dvorak, an emergency room doctor who took the opportunity to briefly share with Ellison his support for a single-payer healthcare system. “We can come together constructively instead of yelling at each other.”
Ellison, along with fellow Minnesota Democrat Rep. Tim Walz, held hastily arranged Congress on Your Corner events Friday in tribute to their wounded colleague, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. A gunman last Saturday killed six at the Tucson meeting and wounded 13 others, including the Democratic congresswoman who remained in critical condition Friday as doctors expressed optimism about her recovery.
“We want to honor her tonight,” Ellison said of Giffords, kicking off the early evening gathering at Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. Several local spiritual leaders offered prayers and reflections before a crowd of about 200 broke into small groups to visit with Ellison about issues ranging from health care to immigration to gun control.
Eric Margolis of Hopkins, who works for a nonprofit agency, said he never thought twice about coming.
“Today’s a day to rally around what brings us together,” Margolis said. “People should never be afraid to take part in public life.”
Ellison — who never used the “Congress on Your Corner” title before but did so Friday as a nod to Giffords — said he has received anonymous threats in the past but has never felt particularly worried about his own safety. He called meetings with constituents “the very heart and soul of elected democracy.”
The tone of Ellison’s event was largely non-political, though Ellison did tell those gathered that the aftermath of the Tucson shooting was “a time to think about sensible regulation of firearms.”
A handful of Minneapolis police officers circulated throughout the Global Market, a collection of ethnic food vendors and merchandise markets. But the crowd stayed docile and respectful.
There was no law enforcement presence at all at the Congress on Your Corner event held by Walz at Mocol’s Super Market in Mankato earlier Friday. The Free Press of Mankato reported that dozens turned out to talk to Walz, some in response to the Tucson shooting but more who simply wanted to talk about issues from the war in Afghanistan to the health care overhaul.
“The public’s absolute unfettered access to stand in front of their congressman . . . that has to continue on,” Walz told the newspaper.
Walz, who represents southern Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, and Ellison, who represents the Minneapolis-area 5th District, were both first elected in 2006, the same year Giffords was elected to Congress.
At Ellison’s event, many attendees paused to sign sympathy cards to Giffords and the families of those killed in Tucson. One card was addressed to Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl killed in the shooting.
It read: “Thank you for your sacrifice — may it not be in vain and help us to form a more perfect union.”
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