Sen. Elizabeth Warren urged an overflow crowd to get organized and get involved in the nation’s fractured political scene at a high-energy town hall meeting Saturday morning. More than 1,000 people filled the Performing Arts Center at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, spilling out into the lobby and the sidewalks outdoors.

Capacity crowd filled every seat. — Jeanna Shepard

Questions ranged from student loan debt to the environment, but most discussion was dominated by the expected vote in the Senate next week on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“A spear has a tip. And right now it’s the health care debate that’s in front of us,” Senator Warren said. “Next week may be critical . . . they want to completely defund Planned Parenthood, where two million women get their health care services. Mostly women who live in areas where they don’t have other access to health care . . . Those are the places we have to keep the focus, right this minute.”

In opening remarks the senator said: “Who thinks we are improving health care by having 22 million people have their health care cut?”

She said proposed cuts to Medicaid would have devastating effects for senior citizens in nursing homes and for people in treatment for opioid addiction, which she later called “a scourge that is burning its way through our families and through our communities. It is touching every one of us.”

She was unsparing in her criticism of the GOP plan. “The whole idea that the Republicans above it all will just cut funding and then what, just let people die?” She continued “They have forced us to ask the questions: who are we? What kind of a people are we? What do we value in this country?”

Bill Engler with his daughter Lucy lashed out at President Trump: "Words matter." — Jeanna Shepard

More than one audience member asked what could be done to combat gridlock and bring about political change.

“It’s up to you, and it’s up to everybody in this room. I’m doing this town hall partly because I love to do town halls,” Senator Warren said to laughter from the crowd.

She continued, “I mean it, but I’m doing a town hall because I want to make sure every one of you stays in this fight.”

Bill Engler attended with his daughter Lucy who is disabled.

“She’s our bundle of joy, and when President Trump made fun of what my daughter does out of joy… it hurt, it hurt to the core,” he said, referring to the now infamous moment during the campaign when Mr. Trump mocked a disabled reporter.

His voice breaking, Mr. Engler lifted his daughter out of her wheelchair as he spoke. “I’m offended when someone doesn’t apologize. He won’t apologize. The real point is, words matter.”

Senator Warren: "We can't do this alone." — Jeanna Shepard

Senator Warren agreed. “I’m with you on this, Bill. Words matter.”

The exchange brought the crowd to its feet with applause.

“We can’t do this alone,” Senator Warren told the room. “If you ever want to talk about a moment in history, this is exactly where we are… remember, at 50-50, they win. If we get one more, they’re going to lose on this health care vote.

“Every one of you knows somebody who lives in a state with a Republican senator . . . Urge them to get out, please. Urge them to go to the office, carry a sign. Urge them to make their voices heard, and make your voice heard. Pick up your phone, email, tweet, every part of this. We need the sound; we need your energy from the grassroots up. It’s democracy.”

She said it is critical to speak with those who hold opposing views: “This is the moment, you’ve actually got to reach out and talk to your crazy uncle.”

Crowd spilled into lobby and beyond. — Jeanna Shepard

The forum was sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Social Justice Leadership Foundation. State Sen. Julian Cyr introduced Senator Warren. Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden moderated.

As the event ended, a long line formed for photographs with the senator that ran around the auditorium up to the highest seats in the house. Senator Warren patiently posed for photographs with all. At the outset she spoke to people outside who could not get in because there was no room.

Afterward, Island resident Kathy Laskowski said: “I thought she was excellent… She really was right to the point on everything.”

Jeff Agnoli agreed. He said: “I’m proud to live in a state that has a senator who represents all people, not just the most privileged citizens. She demonstrated that with every point she made.”

More pictures of town hall meeting.