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Issa appears on rooftop as hundreds protest outside his Vista office - San Diego U-T

By Teri FigueroaJoshua Stewart and Sarah Wire, Contact Reporters

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa stepped out on the roof of his Vista office building Tuesday to snap a few photos of hundreds of people protesting his stance on healthcare reform and other issues.

The rooftop excursion — captured in a photo that soon ricocheted around Twitter — came after Issa and a protest organizer briefly chatted on the sidewalk, and later accused each other of failing to engage in polite dialogue.

On Twitter, many compared the photo of Issa to a scene from the popular television show "The Office." Left-leaning media outlets quickly publishing headlines like "Darrell Issa Appears to Flee to Building Roof to Avoid Protesters."

Like most things, what really happened appears to have been more nuanced.

In a phone call to the Union-Tribune, Issa said he asked protest organizers if he could address the crowd and field their queries, but they declined.

“They weren’t interested in having an exchange with me, or asking me questions,” he said. He later posted photos on Twitter that showed him talking with individual protesters.

Ellen Montanari, who organizes the weekly rallies and often leads the crowd chants, said she tried to shake Issa’s hand and was rebuffed.

Montanari said Issa told her “step away, you are a protester” and that she replied “I am a constituent.” She said he then made “disparaging remarks” about the protesters and the signs they carry.

Montanari said it was “very clear that he was not interested in listening,” so she decided not to invite him to speak to the crowd.

“He was so rude to me, and I wasn’t going to subject the people at the rally to that rudeness,” she said.

His appearance at the rally and on the rooftop led to tweets — including from Issa himself.

It also prompted tweets from environmental attorney Mike Levin, an Orange County-based Democrat who has declared his intention to run for Issa’s seat. Levin was at the protest.

View image on Twitter

Issa is back in his home district this week during a congressional recess, and he also plans to hold a town hall in San Clemente on Saturday morning.

His office has been the target of weekly opposition rallies that routinely draw roughly 300 protesters. On previous occasions, he has spoken to the crowd, but on this day did not.

On Tuesday morning, Issa did give a smile and a piece of cake to an Oceanside man and President Donald Trump supporter who attends the weekly rallies as a counter protest.

“The historical significance of that was not lost on the group,” Montanari said, referencing the famed “let them eat cake” quote from Marie Antoinette.

Rep. Darrell Issa hands cake to a sole supporter during an opposition rally outside Issa's district office in Vista on Tuesday morning. (courtesy photo)

Issa’s spokesman, Calvin Moore, said that even though Issa wasn’t given the microphone to talk to the crowd, “he spent some time talking to a few of those gathered regardless, then headed upstairs to take a pic of everyone gathered.”

As the peaceful weekly rallies have grown — one drew more than 800 people — the city of Vista cracked down on where the protesters can stand. Citing safety reasons along the curvy road, city officials moved the crowd from the sidewalk in front of Issa’s office to the dirt path across the street earlier this month.

The permit for the protests expires at the end of May. Organizers have asked Vista to extend it through the summer; city officials said Tuesday they will decide this week whether to extend it through June.

teri.figueroa@sduniontribune.com

Twitter: @TeriFigueroaUT

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