When U.S. Senator Chris Murphy appeared at a "town hall meeting" in Manchester on Sunday, things became so heated that police had to be called to the scene, although no arrests were made and the senator still stayed late to answer questions and speak with constituents.
Murphy, a Democrat and former Congressman who represented the 5th Congressional District, had scheduled the event "to discuss federal policy and hear ideas about how he can best represent the people of Connecticut in Washington," according to a press release from his office prior to the event. It was the second of five such events that Murphy plans to hold throughout Connecticut in the coming weeks, one in each of the state's five congressional districts; an earlier event took place in Hamden.
But at several points during the event, which was held at MCC on Main, Murphy was interrupted by members of the audience who kept trying to steer the dialogue back to the Second Amendment and the senator's views on gun control. Things became so unruly during the event, that Manchester Mayor Leo V. Diana had to intercede on Murphy's behalf and ask the crowd to remain quiet and orderly as Murphy was trying to discuss other issues and answer constituents questions.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Several videos posted to YouTube (and attached to this article) show Murphy continually being interrupted by members of the audience, and the event eventually deteriorating into a shouting match in the crowd.
"They were totally disrupting the meeting," said Diana, a Democrat. "At one point, it just got into this shouting match."
At that point, Diana said he interjected and asked people to quiet down and be respectful, and asked Deputy Mayor Jay Moran to call the Manchester Police Department.
"It didn't get to that point, but it did seem like it was going to get out of hand," Diana said.
But William Boylan, who attended the event and blogged about it on Patch, said he and other members of the audience felt as though their views were not being taken into consideration or respected by Murphy, and that the event seemed more like a "lecture" from the senator than a town hall meeting.
"My idea of a town hall meeting is people standing up, looking the senator in the eye, asking their questions and getting a straight answer back while being looked in the eye, along with input, interjection from others in attendance, and follow up," Boylon wrote.
During the event, questions were solicited through written notes and could pertain to any topic, and Murphy's staff selected the questions he would answer; questions could also be submitted via Twitter prior to the event.
"There were some who came out on Sunday with the express purpose of disrupting a public town hall meeting, and they did," said Ben Marter, a spokesman for the senator. "It was disappointing, because as a result other people didn't have a chance for their voices to be heard."
When asked if Murphy's office was thinking of changing the format or style of its town hall meetings in the future, Marter replied "absolutely not."
"That's a town hall format," he told Patch. "Chris believes very strongly in getting out and engaging in a conversation to make sure that people's voices are heard."
Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy, who can be seen in the background of one of the YouTube clips in civilian clothes, said police received reports of "rowdiness" and "raucous" behavior at the event, so a uniformed officer was dispatched. Montminy also showed up to "observe," he said.
"We wanted to make sure things didn't get out of hand," Montminy said.
When the subject of gun control and the Second Amendment came up during the discussion, Murphy acknowledged that people have different interpretations of the Constitution but that, in the wake of the Newtown shootings, it was "time for this country to have a serious, comprehensive conversation on gun violence."
Murphy said he favored banning "military-style assault weapons" and high capacity magazines.
Afterwards, Murphy stayed later than the scheduled time to speak with the audience and answer additional questions. A YouTube clip again shows the senator being assailed by multiple questions and comments at the same time, until he eventually leaves.
Montminy said that no arrests were made and no one was denied the opportunity to speak at the event.