Friday, August 7, 2009

Passions need to be cooled on both sides

This doesn't do either side any good.

People are angry about the seeming disregard for their wishes as an asisnine Congress passes incredibly expensive and costly mandates without even taking the time to read what it is they are passing.

Their will be more violence and minor mayhem as a President Obama, seeming to be more and more desperate, calls for folks to get into the faces of those opposed to his health care plans. That coupled with his request for folks to turn in other Americans who may be spreading what he terms is misleading information concerning his program has me shaking my head in disbelief.

The other side has plenty of blame as well. These are public debates, allow the Congressmen and Congresswomen to make their points then engage them in a civilized manner.

Protests, passions roiling town hall meeting on health care
By William March - The Tampa Tribune

What was intended to be a town hall discussion on President Barack Obama's health care reform proposal dissolved into a shouting match with shoving and scuffles in Ybor City tonight.

The event brought home to Tampa the recent phenomenon of angry opponents of Obama's proposal disrupting town hall meetings by Democratic members of Congress during the August recess.

This meeting was organized by Democratic state Rep. Betty Reed but was to include comments on the proposal by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a strong supporter.

Castor tried to speak for nearly 15 minutes but the crowd drowned her out, chanting, "You work for us,'' "Tyranny, tyranny,'' and "Read the bill." She ultimately left the meeting early, further angering some attendees.

The problems began when a crowd of around 500, many of them recruited to attend by interest groups both for and against the proposal, sought to enter the meeting room. The room, in the offices of the Hillsborough County Children's Board on East Palm Avenue, has a capacity of only about 250.

Several hundred people, mostly opponents, wound up outside or packing a hallway leading into the meeting room. Some scuffled with members of the sponsoring groups who manned the doorway.

One man who said he was injured and intended to file a police complaint, Randy Arthur of Oldsmar, was outside the meeting room with his wife, Kathy Arthur, when organizers tried to close the doors.

She said he was slammed against a wall. He later talked to police officers, his knit shirt ripped and a few scratches visible on his chest.

Among the crowd outside, opponents and a smaller number of proponents got into occasional shouting matches.

After trying to speak, Castor left at about 6:40 p.m., taking jeers as she left.

"They're hiding from their constituents. She works for us and needs to listen,'' said Karen Jaroch, a Tampa homemaker and organizer for the 9-12 Project, set up by TV commentator Glenn Beck, which had recruited its members to attend.

Castor spokeswoman Ellen Gedalius said Castor left because her part of the event was finished.

"We said all along our role was to come and give an update on the bill in Congress,'' Gedalius said, noting that Reed, not Castor, organized and sponsored the meeting. "That's what Betty Reed asked us to do … and that's what we did.''

But Reed said afterward that she encouraged Castor to leave because, "She couldn't get a word through."

Gedalius noted that Castor will have a town hall meeting by telephone on Aug. 13 and that her office has been receiving hundreds of comments on the health care issue.

The meeting was organized by Reed plus the Service Employees International Union, other unions and Organizing for America, a liberal group that grew out of the Obama presidential campaign.

Some opponents accused the organizers of trying to stack the crowd by allowing early admission to those on their side. Reed denied that, saying those admitted early were organizers setting up the room.

In any case, opponents appeared to outnumber proponents both inside and outside.

After doors to the meeting room closed, some of those outside crowded around the windows of the meeting room, where they held up signs and chanted.

In the last week or so, similar disruptive protests have erupted at town hall meetings in several states.

Democrats, including White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, have said the disruptions were organized attacks aimed at Democrats by conservative, anti-health care reform interest groups. Several protestors at Thursday's meeting in Tampa angrily rejected that contention.

Castor's staff said Reed planned the meeting and invited Castor before the controversy became so heated.

Reed said she set up the meeting because, "I represent a number of people who ask questions about what's going on with health care, so I thought it would be good to put on a meeting and have the congresswoman come in and give an update."

Reed said she was shocked by the number of people who turned out and some of their reactions.

"When you get to the point of possible violence, you've gone over the edge," she said.

In a news conference prior to the town hall, Castor had said, "I do expect some rabble-rousing."

She said the protesters who have been appearing at town hall forums on health care "would have been protesting Medicare … they would never have accepted Social Security."

Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said the department was told a couple hundred people would show up and sent a squad of 10-15 officers, two marked cars, two supervisors and some undercover officers.

As the crowd grew, more were brought in – mainly for traffic control, she said, but they also broke up some scuffles.

She said no arrests were made.