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Terry Cowgill
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, was in campaign mode and firing on all cylinders at her town hall-style meeting Sunday at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington.

Warren electrifies Mahaiwe crowd, but questioners get few specifics

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By Sunday, Jul 22, 2018 News 22

Great Barrington — Talk about a rock star. If James Taylor himself had made an appearance, he could scarcely have attracted more people than U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, did Sunday at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. 

Warren, who is running for a second six-year term to the U.S. Senate, came to Great Barrington for a campaign event that was dubbed by her staff as a town hall-style meeting. But it had all the trappings of a campaign event, with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, speaking and rallying the troops for her.

The Warren campaign estimated more than 1,000 people attended the rally, including those at the packed Mahaiwe and the overflow crowd that could not be admitted to the 700-seat theater. She spoke to the latter group briefly from the gazebo in front of Town Hall.

At one point, the line to get into the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center to see Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, July 22 stretched not only to Great Barrington’s Main Street but around the corner and halfway up Railroad Street. Photo: Terry Cowgill

After Neal introduced her in the Mahaiwe, Warren had to wait for the applause to die down. When she was ready to speak, someone from the audience shouted, “We love you!” Warren’s response: “I love you, too.”

After praising Neal, the dean of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and the ranking member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Warren greeted the audience with “Welcome to Greater Barrington,” whatever that means.

Before taking questions from the audience, Warren riffed on life in the nation’s capital. “It’s hard down in Washington,” she said, before reminding everyone that Republicans are running the show.

It was a theme she returned to over and over again—the difference between Democrats and Republicans on matters of policy, especially where that policy concerns the disadvantaged and the vulnerable.

See video below of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s town hall campaign event at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington:

One of the questions came from Stacy Russell, who grew up in the Berkshires but now lives in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area. Russell served in the military, in state government and recently retired from the Department of Justice.

“I’m sad and disgusted and exhausted about what has happened in this country,” Russell said. “My question is: What is the Democrats’ plan for a platform?”

While she provided few specifics, Warren hit the ball out of the park. After thanking Russell for her service, the senator hammered home the notion that “Republicans are fine if 10 million people lose health care.” 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, speaking to the overflow crowd at the Great Barrington Town Hall gazebo during her July 22 appearance at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. To her right are, from left, state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield; state Rep. William ‘Smitty’ Pignatelli, D-Lenox; and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield. Photo: Terry Cowgill

“I just boil it down to: every Republican voted to roll back health care for millions of Americans. Every Democrat voted to save healthcare,” Warren said, with her trademark energy and passion. “Democrats believe health care is a basic human right … every single Republican voted to cut taxes for people at the top. Democrats believe everybody pays a fair share.”

Another of Warren’s favorite themes is economic inequality and the answer she hears from Republicans who say they support some of her causes in theory (she listed fighting opioid addiction, saving health care for those with pre-existing conditions and forgiving student college-loan debt as examples).

“They say, ‘we know it’s a big problem but we can’t afford it,'” Warren said. “Why? Because they just gave away a trillion and a half dollars to giant multinational corporations and billionaires.” It was a reference to the GOP tax-cut bill signed last year by President Donald Trump.

State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, pondered the remarks of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, after introducing her at a July 22 event at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington. Photo: Terry Cowgill

 Both Warren and Neal spoke passionately about preserving the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), which the Trump administration has attempted to weaken.

The event got off to an inauspicious start, as the campaign of Shiva Ayyadurai, who is running against Warren as an Independent, set up shop in front of the north side of Great Barrington Town Hall facing the Mahaiwe.

Using a bullhorn, Ayyadurai shouted anti-Warren slogans and called her a racist. His supporters were carrying signs that said “No to Warren.” They called her a fake Indian—a reference to her disputed claim of Native American heritage. At the gazebo, the group also spoke over Warren and attempted to disrupt her speech.

Before the action moved to the gazebo, an angry man crossed Castle Street and began taunting Ayyadurai, who, at that point, was still with supporters in front of Town Hall. The man shouted “resist” and “you’re full of shit” and then pushed Ayyadurai’s bullhorn into his face. Ayyadurai’s supporters promptly wrestled the elderly man to the ground before police arrested him. 

See the video of a man approaching Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai and shoving Ayyadurai with his own bullhorn. The footage is courtesy of journalist and Ayyadurai supporter Marcelo Guadiana, who narrates the video:

Great Barrington police later confirmed that the man was charged with assault and battery and that he was scheduled for an appearance in Southern Berkshire District Court Monday morning (July 23).  

Police declined to elaborate or reveal the man’s name but he was evidently released quickly because he could be seen near the stage in the Mahaiwe when the press gaggle Warren had held backstage after her question-and-answer session was over.

Back in the Mahaiwe, Warren insisted she was advocating for the disadvantaged, adding a couple of times that “I’m in this fight because it’s personal for me.” She grew up in Oklahoma in a family that was in economic distress:

“I grew up in a family that was paycheck-to-paycheck. We had some hard years. When I was a kid, my daddy had a heart attack. He was out of work for a long time. He ultimately ended up as a janitor. My mom worked in wait jobs.”

The idea of forgiving student-loan debt really struck a chord with her: “My folks didn’t have the money for applications to college, much less enough to send me off to school.”

At a July 22 appearance at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, Housatonic resident Carol Diehl asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, if she voted for the most recent Pentagon budget. Warren said she did not. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Interestingly, there were few barbs that directly mentioned Trump by name, and only one reference to Russia. Neal at one point noted that there is a reason that, in the Constitution, Congress is mentioned first.

“[Congress was created] to keep a check on the executive, not to be servile to the influence of a Russian monarch,” Neal said to a mixture of laughter and applause.

Perhaps the most popular line of the night came in response Jennifer Daley, who said she was fed up with the emphasis on testing in public education and wanted to know what Warren would do about it.

“We could start by getting rid of Betsy DeVos,” Warren said without missing a beat. She was referring to Trump’s embattled education secretary, who many feel is unqualified for the job and unsupportive of public schools. But Warren said little about what specifically she would do to address the problems of public education.

Indeed, in the lobby afterwards, some who otherwise consider themselves to be supporters of Warren, lamented that she offered few specifics and instead went for easy applause lines such as the DeVos crack.

Several attendees noted the single-use water bottles on the stage at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center during the July 22 appearance by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. Photo: Terry Cowgill

On the stage next to the podium sat some water in single-serve plastic bottles. The sale of those bottles was banned at the annual town meeting in May. The law will take effect next year but a repeal effort is underway. Jenny Clark, who spearheaded the effort to ban the bottles said she is sending Warren a reusable stainless steel water bottle.

Polls have shown Warren to be an overwhelming favorite for re-election. Her GOP opponent has yet to be determined. State Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman; Winchester businessman John Kingston; and Beth Lindstrom, a former chair of the state Republican Party, will square off in a Sept. 4 primary. The winner will face Warren and Ayyadurai in November.

Warren made a similar appearance in the Berkshires a little more than a year ago at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield. Click here to read the Edge story and here to view the Edgecast of the event by videographer Ben Hillman.


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22 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Jerry says:

    I typed this into google translate, but it didn’t help.

  2. Mark Silver says:

    Mr. Clark, if you have a point to make, please make it. Did Senator Warren say something you disagree with? If so, what and why?

    Edge editors, why do you allow empty name calling in the comments? It adds nothing to intelligent exchange of ideas and cheapens your otherwise good reporting.

  3. Steve Farina says:

    Hahaha, the water bottle issue….clearly Senator Warren is showing she is an elitist consumer, as Jennifer Clark called those who purchase them in one comment stream.
    In actuality, her aides ensure she has water available before, after, and on stage. She is focused on her non-specific message, and doesn’t have the luxury of having to lug around a stainless steel container…. unless of course she finds it to be politically uplifting in the polls at which point it will make a great stage prop.

    1. John says:

      Typical democrat. Do as I say, not as I do. Certainly is a two faced politician

  4. John says:

    Well, if Elizabeth Warren doesn’t have specifics by now, she never will. Perhaps she should go back to non stop pontification.
    Pretty funny Democrats want everybody to pay their “fair share”. That means, nobody pays, and sticks the bill to the US government.
    Elizabeth Warren, Your local swamp.

  5. J.W. Clark says:

    Warren is a perfect example of the local swamp. All talk no action and the liberals follow her like sheep.

  6. Laura C says:

    Why wasn’t this held at the High School, where there was more parking and easier to control a crowd. On a nice Sunday afternoon you couldn’t get through town and I am sure the merchants weren’t happy due to the lack of parking for their customers. I bet that once these people left they didn’t stick around to shop or eat on Main Street. They had to get back to the city.

    1. Joseph Method says:

      We were downtown around that time and I can tell you that the restaurants and stores were packed, the ones that actually bothered to be open on a Sunday. The kneejerk bias against “outsiders” is getting insane.

  7. Shawn G says:

    “In June 2005, Ayyadurai Shiva was charged with assault & battery after his girlfriend called police to report he had pushed and shoved her during an argument. According to a police report detailing the incident, Ayyadurai allegedly resisted arrest and attempted to stab the arresting officer with a pen. After he was taken into custody, an emergency 209A restraining order was issued against Ayyadurai banning him from having contact with her.[70]”

  8. Lauren says:

    I am wondering if any of the commenters here were actually at the Town Hall Meeting or if their comments are only based on the rather biased reporting by Mr. Cowgill? The bias against Ms. Warren starts with the headline and continues throughout.

    1. Laura C says:

      Lauren I was not there only because I have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon than stand in a line for two hours and listen to a lot of political nonsense.

    2. Terry Cowgill says:

      Lauren, anyone who doesn’t trust my reporting doesn’t have to take my word for it. All readers can watch the entire town hall event above. That way, readers can decide for themselves. We are the only news-media outlet in the Berkshires that has posted video of the event as part of our coverage.

  9. Milo says:

    Hey Terry, nice op-ed piece masquerading as objective journalism. Could you possibly be any more obsequious, fawning, or in the tank for Warren?

    “While she provided few specifics, Warren hit the ball out of the park.”

    First, using an overused, hackneyed cliche is poor form. Second, hitting it out of the park means she did a great job, yet, in the preceding clause you admit that she “provided few specifics”. So, she did a great job by providing few specifics?

    Love the water bottle comments. You liberals have become a virtue signaling self-parody.

    The guy wearing the white t-shirt that said “Liberal” on the front and “Democrat” on the back who shoved the microphone in Shiva’s face says it all about the typically white, virtue signaling, hypocritical, intolerant liberal who lives far from the economic war zones of our cities that Democrats have created. Go live in Brockton, Lowell, Fall River, Springfield, or Lawrence for a year and then you can talk all you want about the benefits of diversity, illegal immigration, open borders, and lenient judges.

  10. Gene says:

    I think Terry Cowgill’s article was balanced and fair — especially compared to the Eagle.

  11. Milo says:

    I actually thought Lauren meant the exact opposite of what she wrote: If she thinks your headline is biased against Warren, she’s on a different planet with a different reality system. Is “Warren electrifies crowd” not positive enough? Is the “few specifics” part too critical? I thought that part was the most objective.

  12. Laura C says:

    love the video, all the woman, who either was a friend or wife of the man tackled down, was concerned about was the umbrella.

  13. Jim Balfanz says:

    Congressman Neal stated to much applause that “Facts still Count.”
    FACT: The CIA, DOJ, FBI, and the rest of the Corrupt HIGH LEVEL government operatives KNEW the FISA application(s) presented to the judges were as fake as Warren’s “Indian Heritage.” Yep! FALSE “FACTS” were used. They were used to spend 2 years trying to destroy a legitimately elected President – all because they disagree with who won.

    Chew on that FACT.

    And, that is why, the American people are turning elsewhere. They didn’t leave the Democrat party. It left them a long time ago, when they turned to Socialism, which they now term “Progressiveism.” No matter what name they give it, it is still “a soft word for Communism.” Chew on that FACT as well.

    1. Tom Blauvelt says:

      Jim,
      Saying something is so, doesn’t make it so. Your allegations that the CIA, FBI, DOJ together with the judiciary conspired these past two years to undermine the Trump presidency is laughable and an insult to all the people that work in these institutions safeguarding our liberties. The Trump presidency is collapsing under its own weight due to the corrosive impact of surrounding himself with unqualified, unethical and immoral appointees such as: Michael Flynn, Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, Rob Porter, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, John McEntee . Some of these individuals will be facing criminal charges in the near future. Chew on that fact.

      1. Jim Balfanz says:

        Reread what I wrote, Tom. “High Level”….. And, the criminal charges they will be facing in the near future have ZERO to do with Russian Collusion. In fact the “crimes” they will be charge with would not have even been discovered had it not been for the phony Russian Dossier, which led to the Special prosecutor. No insult towards those hard working – HONEST people working in “these institutions.” Only to the corrupt HIGH LEVEL officials who “jumped the shark.”

        The heavily redacted FISA memor information that was released on Saturday, very clearly proves that there was no “there, there” with regard to Russian collusion. If there was, Carter Page would have been indicted a long time ago.

        Let me ask you, Tom – where were you when all the misdeeds of Hillary and the Democrat party with regard to fixing the primary?

      2. Jim Balfanz says:

        Sorry for my typos. But, also they are not my allegations, Tom. They are the allegations of many legal people regarding this entire fiasco….

      3. Jim Balfanz says:

        …and exactly when are you and so many others going to finally realize that Hillary lost that election because of who she was/is, and what she had/has done, and the simple fact that she never REALLY even campaigned very hard, because she, you and her supporters just assumed she was going to win big????

  14. C Leary says:

    I was born and brought up in Boston , but the last 30 years the Democratic Bolshevik party politicians and there misinformed supporters have been lobotomized by them .. everything she said was untruth Paul in many ways and has been twisted to fit her political naravative of the Karl Marx doctrines and all these politicians in these who support her our in the same Bolshevik party .
    Socrates said it best , when the debate has been lost , the loser uses the tools of slander !

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