The Santa Cruz Sentinel covered The Steamboat Institute’s Winter Conference in Aptos, California.

Read the article here or pasted below.

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/NE/20170225/NEWS/170229788

Conservative forum crosses paths with resistance movement in Aptos

APTOS >> The screeching tires, honking horns and chanting opposition were audible in the Seascape Beach Resort’s ballroom during a political forum hosted Saturday by a grassroots conservative organization from Colorado that drew panelists from throughout the U.S.

The inaugural Steamboat Institute forum assembled a collective of conservatives, journalists and farmers. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, discussed national security. He is chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He said he has concerns with al-Qaida, which he said likely is “plotting and planning a major attack on the west.”

Nunes also raised question about Chinese efforts to choke shipping lanes and establish military posts across the globe. He also said GOP leadership has the chance to “blow up the tax code.” Nunes said economic growth was in dire need.

Before the conference Saturday morning, Steamboat Institute co-founder Jennifer Schubert-Akin watched the roughly 350 protesters march along Seascape Resort Drive.

“They’re expressing their views over there and we’re expressing ours in here. It’s OK,” Schubert-Akin told other members of her organization. She allowed the press to attend.

“You realize, in most countries, you could not do this,” she told the Sentinel. She said Steamboat Institute started while she was working in accounting and recognized what she saw as too many obstacles for small entrepreneurs.

Outside, Army veteran Kathy Bidwell of Soquel was among the members of Santa Cruz Indivisible and other groups, such as Veterans For Peace.

Bidwell said Nunes “ditched his constituents” after The Fresno Bee reported last week’s protests, chiding Nunes and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, for having no town hall meetings during the congressional recess.

“This upside-down flag is a sign of distress,” Bidwell said. “I fought for this flag.”

Casey Carlson, chairwoman of Greater Santa Cruz Federation of Teachers, also cited concerns with Nunes’ lack of attendance at town hall meetings. “This protest originated because his constituents could not meet with him,” Carlson said.

Dan Lassiter of Soquel used electrical tape to mark his sign with “We the people” while receiving compliments on his star-spangled sweatpants.

“We are the people,” Lassiter said. “I am appalled by the refusal to investigate obvious conflicts of interest.”

Nunes said he would not investigate American citizens without evidence of wrongdoing. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned Feb. 13 amid questions about his communications with Russia, “is an American hero and he was doing his job,” Nunes also said. Flynn was invited to the event but did not attend.

There were 230 people who attended the forum and dinner, Schubert-Akin said. She also said the event would be followed by others in the area.

She said the group is not affiliated with the Republican Party. “Some old guard GOP, I think we were scary to them,” Schubert-Akin said of Steamboat Institute’s beginning in 2008.

Local group Santa Cruz Indivisible’s co-founder Carson Kelly welcomed future events by Steamboat Institute and recommended dialogue with the organization.

“It should be constructive,” he said. “We’ll have more than 1,000 people there.”

He said President Donald Trump’s election rousted a major resistance movement.

“I think there’s a new class of political activist appalled by election results and let down by the Democratic leadership,” Kelly said. “The beast has awoken, so to speak. Everyday activism is no longer a choice.”

Laura Zucker, who teaches special education in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, said she came in solidarity to oppose President Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Education Secretary. “We’re afraid she is not in the best interest for our children with special needs,” Zucker said.

The event continued with a dinner Saturday afternoon. Mary Kissel, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, was moderator of a conversation with Nunez and other journalists. The protest started about 7:30 a.m.

Rene Bloch of Santa Cruz said each group is allowed to express its opinion and added that the protest would remain peaceful.

“Everything is legal,” Bloch said.