Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Overflow crowd of hundreds lined up to enter already locked doors of Missouri town hall on health care reform
At town halls around the country, many flooded by more protesters than event organizers anticipated, lawmakers returning from Washington are finding constituents don’t want to listen; they want to be heard.
“Why won’t you let the people speak?” shouted one protester in Tampa, Fla., at a public forum where Rep. Cathy Castor, D-Fla., attempted to pitch Obama’s health care reform plan to her constituency.
The Tampa protest made national headlines afterward, as dozens of protesters were pushed out the door in a scuffle, some claiming to have received injuries, and the doors were locked to bar their chanting protest: “You work for us!”
But even inside the locked doors, many in the crowd didn’t want to listen to their legislator’s reasons for advocating a federal health care plan.
When Castor tried to tell the crowd that those who currently pay for their own health insurance, either privately or through their employer, would benefit the most from legislation being considered in Washington, she was drowned out by disbelieving citizens.
“Bull—-!” shouted protesters inside the room. “No we’re not!”
Video of the eruption can be seen below, though the clip does contain flagrant and repeated profanity:
Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Wis., got a raucous earful as well, when hundreds of people inside and outside the Green Bay town hall demanded their representative read thoroughly the health care reform bill, which many people believe is being pushed too quickly through Congress.
On the Fox News Channel, a Wisconsin man who attended the town hall meeting explained he wanted to express the message, “We don’t feel that Washington is listening to us.”
He told host Bill Hemmer, “The way the Congress has been acting in general lately is in my mind totally unconstitutional. They want to take one of the most important issues in my life, which is health care, they want to say that they are going to reform it but they haven’t even read the bill.”
“I will continue to exercise my First Amendment rights until this government exhibits some form of willingness to communicate with the people,” the guest explained.
As WND has reported, incumbent Democrats returning from Washington across the country are being forced to suspend meetings with their constituents, screaming protesters are being dragged out of events by police and officials are being greeted by protest signs and chants.
Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have noticed the firestorm over the past few months, and both have released comments to explain the phenomenon.
“These are nothing more than destructive efforts to interrupt a debate that we should have, and are having,” Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the Associated Press. “They are doing this because they don’t have any better ideas. They have no interest in letting the negotiators, even though few in number, negotiate. It’s really simple: they’re taking their cues from talk show hosts, Internet rumor-mongerers … and insurance rackets.”
Atonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio, however, had a different take.
“All the polls show there is serious concern, if not outright opposition, to the president’s health care plan,” she told the Associated Press.
The volatile situation has resulted in a new tactic from the White House.
“If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard,” said deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, according to a report in Politico.
The comments came as senators in support of Obama’s health care plan were told to do more preparation than usual for their public meetings expected during the coming recess time.
All across the country, legislators coming to their home districts in attempt to sell the health care plan to constituents are being met with fierce opposition and huge crowds:
In Mehlville, Mo., protesters lined up around the block of the Bernard Middle School gym where Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., had planned a public forum. When hundreds were left standing on the street, they remained outside into the evening. Eventually, a union representative reportedly assaulted one of the protesters, Kenneth Gladney, which lead to six arrests, including a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter. Gladney later appeared in an interview on the Fox News Channel explaining the attack, which drew national attention.
A video posted on YouTube, one of many from around the country, reportedly shows several hundreds standing outside in a stunningly long line, waiting to get into a packed town hall meeting on health care with Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.
At a health care town hall event in Syracuse, N.Y., in July, police were called in to restore order, and at least one heckler was taken away by local police.
Close to 100 sign-carrying protesters greeted Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Fla., at a late June community college small-business development forum in Panama City, Fla.
Danville, Va., anti-tax tea party activists claimed they were “refused an opportunity” to ask Rep. Thomas Perriello, D-Va., a question at a town hall event and instructed by a plainclothes police officer to leave the property after they attempted to hold up protest signs.
The constituents of Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., unable to access their representative through a town hall meeting, created a video charging that Tanner has met with Michael Moore and Fidel Castro, “But he won’t meet his constituents in the 8th District to talk about health care.”
The biggest source of protests are the health-care bill, the $787 billion economic stimulus package and the cap-and-trade legislation. They’re also angry about Barack Obama’s refusal to release his birth certificate to prove he is a “natural born citizen” and constitutionally eligible to serve in the White House.
According to an Associated Press report, Obama’s top political adviser, David Axelrod, showed Senators in D.C. video of some of the boisterous town-hall meetings and discussed how to respond to disruptions.
“It’s a challenge, no question about it, and you’ve got to get out there and make the case,” Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said afterward. “This is not the time for the faint-hearted.”
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