Staffers for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called police on Thursday evening to disperse unemployed protesters staging a sit-in at his Kenosha, Wis., office, according to the protesters and police.
Two protesters told HuffPost they're unhappy with Ryan's proposals to gut social programs and also his new policy of not holding free public meetings with constituents during the congressional recess.
During the summer of 2009, Ryan hosted some 17 town halls. Admission to Ryan's one town-hall style event in his district this summer will cost $15, according to the Whitnall Park Rotary Club, which is hosting the Milwaukee-area event on Sept. 6.
"People don't realize that they have every right to stand up and talk to their congressman," Shanon Molina, 31, told HuffPost on Friday.
Molina, who lives in Kenosha with her daughter, said she lost her full-time job as an office administrator in 2009. For 18 months she received unemployment benefits and picked up a few shifts as a waitress and bartender. In January, she landed a new job as an office administrator, but at half the hours and half the pay of the previous job, which she said she'd had for 10 years.
"I have a child to support, I have a house to keep up," Molina said. "I didn't choose to be in this situation. I'm in an emergency here."
The unemployment rate is 10 percent, unchanged from a year ago, in nearby Racine -- the closest city with numbers available.
Molina said she and other members of Wisconsin Jobs Now, a coalition of community groups, neighborhood associations and labor unions, organized the Kenosha protest, which at one point on Thursday she said attracted more than 100 people.
"I went there to talk to Paul Ryan," Molina said. "They said he was on vacation with his family in Colorado."
Shortly after the protesters arrived, said Molina, Ryan's staffers handed them a written statement from the congressman. She described the staffers as cordial and polite.
"Although I was unable to personally meet with those who stopped by my Kenosha office, I appreciate hearing from so many on the urgent need to create jobs in Southeast Wisconsin," the statement said, according to a YouTube video of protesters reading it into a bullhorn outside the Kenosha office. "I pride myself on being accessible to those I represent."
A spokesman for Ryan did not respond to requests for comment.
Lt. Eric Larsen of the Kenosha Police Department told HuffPost that Ryan's office called the department around 4 p.m. on Thursday, and that the officers who responded found seven protesters inside the building where the office is located and about 50 protesters outside.
"They left peaceably," Larsen said.
Some of the protesters returned on Friday. Kenosha resident Scott Page, 32, said he brought his laptop so he could look for jobs from inside Ryan's office. He said he hasn't been able to find anything better than temporary and part-time work since being laid off from a factory at the end of 2007.
"My rent's due in a short time here, and I honestly don't know where I'm going to come up with that money," Page said. "We're just gonna sit here until we get to talk to Ryan face to face. Every day we're going to sit here."
Ryan has boasted that he hosted lots of town hall meetings during the summer recess of 2009.
"I had 17 and shattered attendance records at my town halls," Ryan said during an appearance on MSNBC. "You know, at the end of them, I was asking for a show of hands of the people who had never been to a town hall before, and it was about 95 percent. They were very civil."
During town halls in April of this year, Ryan heard from hecklers opposed to his plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system.