(CNN)As Republican lawmakers across the country face heated questions from constituents at angry town halls, two co-founders of a progressive movement fought back Wednesday night against allegations that liberal activists are being paid to protest or that their primary goal is to disrupt.
Leah Greenberg and Angel Padilla of Indivisible wrote “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda” and are former congressional staffers.
Indivisible made its biggest splash recently when some of its affiliated groups made their voices heard at GOP congressional town hall meetings. The anti-Trump movement has morphed into a nationwide movement, comprising 7,000 affiliated groups in all 50 states and almost every congressional district.
In an interview with Erin Burnett on CNN’s “OutFront,” Padilla denied encouraging town hall attendees to be aggressive or disruptive and said, “By and large, the folks that are at these meetings just want answers from their representatives.”
“What we’ve always been advocating for, and it’s in our guide, is that we want these to be respectful and polite,” he said. “But we also want to protect those that are under threat under this new administration and under this Congress that seems to be ready to rubber stamp Trump’s agenda.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently tried to compare these progressive activists with tea party demonstrators from the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term, telling Fox News, “The tea party was a very organic movement. This has become a very paid, Astroturf-type movement.”
Greenberg said the White House “has presented zero proof of those allegations” but admitted she could not rule it out definitively, saying “I cannot say that nobody in a country of hundreds of millions of people has paid anyone at any point in the past.”
She also cautioned that “we’ve seen this playbook before.”
“When the tea party first started popping up in 2009, Democrats said, ‘Oh they’re Astroturf,” Greenberg said. “They said these are being, they’re being funded by the Koch brothers, we don’t have to listen to them, we don’t have to take their concerns seriously because they’re not representative, and that did not work out well for them. So if I were a Republican member of Congress and I was seeing massive concern from my own constituents, I would recommend that they take that seriously.”
Padilla said the tea party movement proved how opposing Trump and his agenda could be beneficial to the Indivisible movement.
“Saying ‘no’ did do one thing and that slowed down the Obama momentum,” he said. “It slowed down the Obama agenda, and so if what that means is slowing down Trump and Republicans, and that means protecting, again, immigrants and refugees and all the people that are under attack, then I’m OK with that. It’s about protecting people. And that’s what I think a lot of these people in these town halls are focused on.”