Demonstrators remain silent at Barletta opioid forum

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SHIPPENSBURG TWP., Pa. - Dozens of demonstrators who attended an opioid forum Wednesday hosted by Rep. Lou Barletta remained silent during the forum in their efforts to sway the Republican congressman to have an open town hall forum.

The forums that have been held by Republican lawmakers across the country have often devolved into shouting matches, and there was concern Wednesday's event could have a similar outcome.

Instead, Barletta made introductory and closing remarks, while a panel answered questions from the moderator without any interruption.

An exchange between Barletta and Rep. Scott Perry earlier Wednesday in Harrisburg discussing the forum also had some demonstrators upset.

"Because of the topic, I didn't believe that they would [disrupt the event], and if they want to shout outside, that's fine," he said, responding to the exchange that was caught on-camera. "It's America, it's great, they can do that as long as they didn't disrupt the event. That's all I was worried about."

Attempts by FOX43 to reach Rep. Perry Wednesday night were unsuccessful.

Demonstrators instead held a silent protest inside the meeting hall and a vocal one outside before the forum, trying to get through to Rep. Barletta about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, urging him not to work toward its repeal.

“The ACA expanded those benefits for so many people, and so I thought tonight would be a really good opportunity to come and do some very peaceful demonstration by holding a sign just so that the representatives would hear that perspective since they don't have a regular town hall in which we can have that type of back and forth,” Emily Katz, a demonstrator from Carlisle, said.

Barletta told reporters he wants to support a measure that would replace the Affordable Care Act while it is being repealed. He would not commit to hosting an open town hall with his constituents, instead agreeing to something else.

“Any person or group that wants to meet with me, I will be happy to sit down with and talk about their concerns,” Barletta said. “What I don't want is to have a town hall where people become disruptive.”