“I’m happy to listen to them…but at least be truthful about it.”
That’s what Congressman Kevin Cramer told me today on my radio show of a Planned Parenthood protest outside his office in Fargo on Friday. The protesters are now alleging that they were blocked from delivering a petition to Cramer’s staff by law enforcement, but Cramer is saying it was a “stunt.”
Planned Parenthood points to this YouTube video of evidence of their claims:
You can see the two women from the video flanking U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, on the extreme right and the extreme left, in this Facebook photo from earlier this month. Cramer is widely expected to run for the Senate seat Heitkamp currently occupies next year.
“On March, 24, about 30 middle-class white women in pink t-shirts, as non-threatening a group of protestors as you could find, brought a petition to that office during its stated hours, signed by hundreds of North Dakota citizens who depend on Planned Parenthood for basic women’s health care,” a letter writer to the Fargo Forum alleges (I’m not sure what the reference to the race of the protesters is all about). “In a YouTube video, ‘Rep. Kevin Cramer Petition Delivery,’ two polite women can be seen approaching the building, only to be physically blocked by multiple police officers, who tell them they will be arrested if they enter. The police say that it’s private property, and the property owner has asked that any demonstrators be arrested for trespassing, even for parking in their representative’s parking lot. This may seem like a small thing, but the very aggression of the response, to a small, polite group of citizens with slightly dissenting opinions, is deeply troubling. As Gandhi said, “the non-beginning of a thing is supreme wisdom.”
I asked Cramer about these claims, and he provided some context.
First, he said nobody from Planned Parenthood called his office to make an appointment. He said a woman named Briana did call his office to inquire if it was staffed, but didn’t give her full name or make an appointment to deliver the petitions.
For what it’s worth, it seems Briana just happened to be listening to the interview and disputes Cramer’s characterization of the call:
@RepKevinCramer I actually gave your Fargo staff person my last name, address, and phone number 🙂 Thanks for the name drop tho!
— Briana (@brianarabenberg) March 27, 2017
Cramer also said the protesters had actually been in the office over the noon hour and saw a sign on the door that the one staffer who was in the office was out.
“Those people had been in the building during the noon hour,” he told me adding that the “video they staged outdoors was made later.”
“They were also told they could slip the petitions under the door,” Cramer said.
When I asked Cramer about the police, he said “we certainly didn’t ask them to be there” adding that it was “evidently the owner of the building.”
He said the building owner had apparently seen media reports about the protest and informed the police that he did not want the protesters on private property. In addition to Cramer’s office the building in question houses other businesses.
“I don’t mind if people oppose me,” Cramer said, adding that he “enjoys it.” But he went on to say that it’s become the “M.O. of the Democratic party to play victim.”
Speaking of the Democrats, the North Dakota iteration of the party issued a press release about the protest.
“Kevin Cramer likes to talk about how open and available he is, but when his constituents want to peacefully make their voices heard, the cops are called,” party chairwoman Kylie Oversen is quoted as saying. “Actions speak louder than words. It’s clear Kevin Cramer is too scared of a bunch of women wearing pink to even talk to them. Maybe next time they should wear white to get a response from him.”
Cramer said in response, “That’s cute. Kylie is so successful in politics, and this is obviously why.”
Oversen represented a Grand Forks area district in the North Dakota House for one term before losing her bid for re-election in November.
Here’s the full audio of our interview: