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Funny, Pointed Protest Growing at Congressional Hearings

The Monopoly Man has appeared at congressional hearings including one on Google's market dominance. (Ian Madrigal/Youtube)
The Monopoly Man has appeared at congressional hearings including one on Google's market dominance. (Ian Madrigal/Youtube)
July 15, 2019

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — Protesting in Congress has a new face, and you could say people aren’t masking their feelings any longer.

A swamp monster appeared behind the former energy lobbyist picked to lead the Interior Department. Women in “The Handmaid's Tale" costumes showed up for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's hearing. And then there's The Monopoly Man.

Independent campaign consultant Ian Madrigal has a sideline, protesting the behavior of powerful companies by appearing at hearings in a top hat, monocle and mustache.

Madrigal said the idea is to get on camera to get his message across.

"Having been the person in the suit awkwardly sitting behind someone in Congress before, I realized that I could very easily get into the shot,” Madrigal said. “People don't realize how open these hearings are. They're meant for the public to attend."

An article last fall by the National Review argued the "near constant" removal of protesters from the Kavanaugh hearing suggested Congress should consider no longer allowing the public to attend. But Madrigal said the First Amendment protects wearing costumes, as long as it's not disruptive.

He said he actually has fewer problems with security when the guards know what he's doing.

"I usually actually come in the building with my full costume on and go through security with the full costume on,” Madrigal said. “It gets me a little bit less grief with security, usually."

He said he thinks our politics have, unfortunately, come to resemble reality TV. But he said this kind of protest uses humor to punch through the noise.

"We expect our politics to be entertaining. A lot of politicians have been very reluctant to embrace that, and so we've seen pretty much a media blackout on anything that's not Trump focused,” he said. “So, I think these kinds of creative actions are a way to take that power back."

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV