United States Senator Tom Cotton was met with a myriad of boos and cheers as he stepped onto the stage at Springdale High School’s Performing Arts Center. After joining the crowd for a rendition of the “Pledge of Allegiance”, Cotton answered questions ranging from climate change to health care.
Over 1,000 people were packed into the venue after a large number of constituents RSVP’d to the meeting on Cotton’s Facebook page. At least a few hundred people were not allowed in, as the fire marshall designated a cutoff limit where no more people could enter the building.
While the senator’s supporters began to interject into the meeting about halfway through, Cotton was met with heavy resistance throughout the event, specifically at the beginning. At one point, a swarm of boos caused the Dardanelle native to pause for about 30 seconds before answering a particular question.
Those who were hostile towards the senator made it very apparent during the meeting but some simply wanted to hold him accountable and let him know their thoughts.
“I’m here to hold Senator Cotton to account and, more than anything, I’m here to celebrate democracy and I think it’s a great thing left and right that people are here engaging their representatives and talking about what matters to them,” said Alan Elrod, a junior college teacher from Beebe.
The meeting was slated to begin at 5:00 p.m. but the senator did not enter the center until 5:15. He answered questions for an hour-and-a-half but some people stayed in the building until around 7:00 before heading to the exits.
At one point, Cotton received a large number of cheers after he said he believed the climate was getting warmer. He acknowledged that he believed human action played a factor before saying something needs to be done.
“We have reasonable inference that 200 years of industrialization and human activity has contributed to that in part,” Cotton said.
When pressed on what he would do, Cotton said he would not commit to reallocating funds to alternative-energy avenues but said he would encourage scientists to find ways to solve the problem.
A heavy police presence was scattered throughout Springdale High’s campus to make sure nothing got out of hand. While expletives were shouted at the senator and several arguments broke out between those in attendance both before and during the meeting, the police did not have to get involved.
Most in attendance simply wanted to take part in democracy.
“We’re here to see what they have to say,” said Ron Haley, a resident of Northwest Arkansas. “We’re interested in what’s going on and we want to hear the reaction of the crowd and (Cotton’s) reaction.”
Those who wish to contact Sen. Cotton can do so by calling his Springdale office at 479-751-0879 or his Washington, D.C. office at 202-224-2353.
Story by UATV Reporter Andrew Epperson