COEUR d’ALENE — Perhaps Democrats aren’t really an extinct species in North Idaho.
Saturday’s evidence was entirely to the contrary, as at least 300 boisterous anti-Trump protesters from all over the region jammed the Community Room at the Coeur d’Alene Library to chant slogans, speak out against administration policies and demand that the President release the contents of his tax returns.
They weren’t done there, either, as more than a hundred enthusiasts changed venues to stage a sign-waving march along U.S. 95.
“Our country is in danger and Donald Trump is ruining it,” said Nina Benjamin, who served as the town hall organizer. “Well, despite what anyone thinks, we’re going to resist and stop this insanity.
“People in North Idaho and all over the country are realizing what Trump really is about, and we’re not going to stay silent while he hides his tax returns and everything else.”
The library event was unusual, to say the least.
While long lines of people waited to sign in and leave contact information for future use, others were tailgating under a tent in the parking lot.
On stage were lifelike cardboard replicas of Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, along with U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho.
All three national office-holders were invited to the Tax Day Town Hall, and predictably declined — so their likenesses were propped up wearing handsome sport coats.
They took quite a verbal thrashing, too, as dozens of audience members asked pointed questions about Democrats’ long list of objections to Trump’s actions during roughly three months in the White House.
The place was raucous, as the crowd repeated slogans held up on huge signs — repeating their messages on cue.
“We will resist, our voices matter,” they roared three times. After another speaker roasted Rep. Labrador, the sign changed and the audience loudly hollered: “We are here, where are you?”
The meeting offered a lot more than just the shouting, however.
Several members of the “Indivisible Hayden” group that sponsored the gathering — along with other organizations from Sandpoint, Moscow, Lewiston and elsewhere in the region — used the microphone to announce future meetings and urged the group to stay organized and make an impact.
“We can’t say things about Trump and just complain,” said Geri Douglas of Post Falls. “We have to work to get people together, and ultimately to find good candidates and vote to take back our country.
“The Republicans here are complacent, so we can change things if we work at it. Just sitting around and talking won’t put someone in office.
“This is only the start of turning things around, and stopping the destructive policies we’re seeing.”
The group’s complaints about Trump and his administration were emotional, and not exactly a secret.
Beyond the repeated calls for Trump to make his tax returns public, there were pleas to do something about cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pleas not to “wander into wars,” and several warnings about looming cuts to the nation’s education budget.
The meeting opened with a video message from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the powerhouse Democratic leader who called Trump a liar on-screen, and tossed out several examples to back up her claim.
The video was received with sustained applause.
From the audience, Bob Jude railed against another Republican effort, the policy to give social media companies wide-ranging rights over what everyday citizens say or buy online.
“They took a huge amount of money from the telecom corporations just to do this,” Jude said. “All that money, just to take away our privacy.”
There was also an expected blast against Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act — although so far Republicans have not been able to agree on what might replace it.
“Before there was any Obamacare and insurance companies could do whatever they wanted,” said June Paxton of Coeur d’Alene. “I’ve got cancer, a melanoma.
“I recovered from it and went back to work — this was in the late 1980s — but no company insurance policy would cover me. I had to buy insurance that cost $1,200 per month.
“Eventually, I owed $11,000 and all I could do was put my premiums on a credit card, so I had to file bankruptcy.
“Without Obamacare, that’s where millions of people wind up.”
Saturday’s tax day event was scheduled to coordinate with meetings and marches around the United States.
“I think North Idaho showed up and spoke out,” Benjamin said. “We’re going to stay together and spread the message that Trump was terrible mistake — and our own state representatives should not be giving him any support.
“Today proved that there are plenty of people who see what’s going on, and want to change it. The town hall and the march made a real statement.”