Andrea Berteit felt more comfortable growing up in East Berlin in the ’80s than she does living under President Donald Trump’s administration.
That’s why she protests at Florida Rep. Ted Yoho’s office every Tuesday alongside hundreds of other activists.
The 52-year-old German green card holder moved to Gainesville six years ago when her husband was hired at UF. Berteit and her family will apply for citizenship in April, but none of them like the idea of becoming citizens of a country that doesn’t value immigrants and won’t implement a universal health-care system.
One afternoon every week, Berteit rallies protesters at Yoho’s Gainesville office to show her children that the U.S., their new home, has the potential to be great — it just isn’t right now.
Yoho, a Republican serving North Central Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, was elected in 2012 and is currently serving his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the most recent election cycle, he ran on a platform that supports the removal of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, said Brian Kaveney, a spokesman for Yoho. An ardent supporter of Trump, Yoho also spoke at the then-candidates campaign rally in Ocala.
Following Trump’s inauguration, local activist groups have consistently visited the congressman’s office to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with his continuous support of Trump’s policies, including the temporary immigration ban and the proposed repeal and replacement of Obamacare, Berteit said.
She said her 16-year-old son, a sophomore at Eastside High School, feels that America’s democracy is slowly coming apart at the hands of selfish and unqualified leaders.
“I want to show him that this country has such great potential, such a great foundation,” Berteit said.
Although she hasn’t been able to participate in a U.S. election, she believes applying constant pressure through calling, visiting and writing to local politicians is the only way to create change in Washington, D.C.
“It’s (Yoho’s) responsibility to at least demonstrate that he converses with all of us, that he takes the diligence to reflect on everyone’s point of view and that he then goes and represents that at congress,” she said.
Yoho agreed to hold a town hall meeting with the community. It will take place March 4 at Countryside Baptist Church, located at 10926 NW 39th Ave., at 10 a.m.
“I hear what they are saying and that everyone has the right to petition their representative for a redress of grievances,” Yoho wrote in an email. “I do feel that it is realistic for individuals, who don’t share the same political philosophy as me, to exercise their First Amendment rights and I support that.”
The meeting will allow community members to ask Yoho specific questions about the policies he supports, Kaveney said.
“Just like at any town hall, you hope it doesn’t get out of hand,” Kaveney said. “If people just show up and yell at him, and shout him down like you see on the news, that’s not helping anybody.”
Republican politicians are feeling the wrath of liberal constituents at frequent and confrontational town hall meetings across the country, according to The Washington Post.
Many protesters believe Yoho is complacent in supporting Trump and sticks strictly to his Republican party lines.
Yoho said he has stood against his own party leadership in the past.
“I will stand against anyone who doesn’t defend our Constitution, regardless of their party affiliation,” he said.
However, that response isn’t enough to placate Joy Pitts.
Pitts, 34, began the Gainesville chapter of Indivisible, a national movement that encourages Americans to resist policies that Trump’s administration puts forth. Within a week, the chapter had 1,000 members.
“We need to be engaged, we need to hold people accountable, we need to make change from the bottom up,” she said.
At the town hall meeting next week, Pitts will ask Yoho what it will take for him to stand up to the president. Although she doesn’t know how many seats the venue has, she expects hundreds of people to show up.
“I don’t think we’ll change his policy. I’m realistic,” Pitts said. “But it’s definitely getting under his skin.”
Pitts said most members of Gainesville’s Indivisible are spending between 40 and 50 hours a week to make sure people like Yoho don’t get reelected.
But, not everyone in Gainesville disapproves of the congressman’s political stance.
Jack Gregory, 20, said he supports Trump and the removal of Obamacare, but believes if some of Yoho’s constituents are discouraged, they should make it known.
“I absolutely believe in the right to peacefully protest. I think it’s very important for them to have the ability to voice their opinion,” the UF mechanical engineering junior said. “However, I think there are much better uses of their time.”
Gregory believes the 50 hours Pitts dedicates to organizing protests each week could be used to raise money for other political or environmental organizations.
“There’s plenty of places you can volunteer and fundraise for, where you’ll actually make a difference with those goals,” he said. “But I absolutely believe they should keep fighting for what they believe in.”
Contact Molly Vossler at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @molly_vossler