Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adam Schiff Healthcare Town Hall Report: Voldemort Is Funding Your Protest

So I trekked out to the Back-Of-Beyond (for this West LA gal, anyway) to attend Rep. Adam Schiff's (CA-29) health care town hall last night in Alhambra.

Now before I go any further, I have to tell you, it's one thing to read about these town halls, it's quite another to actually be there. Health care opponents at the forum were not just angry, they were full of rage. Rage at the government, rage at Obama (for, well, everything), rage at those of us who dared come out to support our President and oppose them, rage they had to pay taxes, rage at immigrants, and even rage at each other.

It's just surreal to be surrounded by adults - a lot of them senior citizens - consumed with the kind of rage normally reserved for three year-olds forced to share their binkie with little brother (no offense meant to any three year-olds reading this)

No moment crystalized this for me more than when a health care reform opponent head-butted me as I took photos. Yes, you read that correctly, head-butted me.

Really, here are the photos.

For what, I'm not exactly sure. Some nice policemen, however, were able to communicate to the gentleman that his First Amendment rights end at my nose, and I was happy to let it go at that.

So anyway, more about the town hall itself. Depending on who you talked to, about 1,500-3,000 hardy souls attended - going by the number of signs, the crowd appeared to be about 60/40 in favor of supporters. Health care reform opponents had some pretty slick, professional looking signs bashing SEIU (the new ACORN?), Obamacare, Socialism, etc....... and of course the LaRouche Hitler signs were all over the place. HCAN and OFA gave out a number of signs as well, but there were also quite a few home-made banners present.

The event was moved from the public library to a nearby street cordoned off by police. Schiff and a panel of health care experts were separated from the crowd with a small stage (and a lot of cops), and their voices amplified by a killer sound system.

Whoever thought of this setup was a genius because the tea baggers (or "birthers", or "birth-baggers", take your pick), who screamed almost non-stop, no matter what was said, or who said it, never really had a chance. Unless you were standing right next to one of these nutjobs, the speaker's voices could easily be heard over the crowd. Other congress members take note for your own town halls.

Security was present, but not overbearing. I saw about dozen police officers and several squad cars, which seemed to be plenty to handle the crowd. A lot of able-bodied opponents got their early enough to snag chairs near the front meant for the handicapped and elderly. When politely asked to move, even 
by other opponents, they refused to budge.

Essentially everyone on the panel was pro-reform, although what that reform looked like varied depending on the speaker. But regardless, they did a pretty good job of ignoring the worst 
in the crowd and plowing on as if this was going to be a civilized debate.

Early on Schiff asked the crowd who was pro and who was anti-reform. Huge cheers went up for either side. Then he asked who there was undecided. Crickets. Just crickets.

A few snapshots from the evening:

A woman who weighed easily 300 pounds yelled repeatedly that she "Wasn't paying for insurance for no smokers"

Another woman yelling "Read the bill!" was asked if she had read the healthcare bill by a supporter. She replied she had, in fact it was in her purse. Incredulous she could stuff a thousand-page document in her handbag, the supporter asked to see it. At which point the protester pulled out a copy of one of the viral emails going around and said, "See, it's the bill! I've read it!"

A man near the stage repeatedly screamed, "Where's Schiff?!" whenever another panelist spoke. When it was pointed out that the Congressman was not even 10 feet away, the man turned around and yelled, "Maybe your communist eyes can see him, but my patriotic eyes can't!"

I kept running into familiar faces. No, these weren't people I knew, but people I had seen at a tea party in Santa Monica back in April. I guess these folks travel in packs.

An older woman kept yelling, "Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire" every time a panelist said something she disagreed with. Really, I'm not making this up.

Oh, and they booed a nine year-old girl who got up at the end to thank the Congressman for supporting reform.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Nobody comes to these townhalls to learn anything. They either come to protest or to protect the townhall from protesters. It's all just political theatre. But our side was out in force, and that was a wonderful thing. And I have to say, it was clear Schiff was deeply grateful that was the case. 

Folks, as awful as this is, we have to keep doing it. The mood is really ugly out there, it's only going to get worse. We need to get out there and defend the change we voted for last November.

Yes we must.

Here are all the town halls and public events we know about for the rest of this week.


Diane Watson (CA-33)
7pm - 8pm 
Tele-TownHall Meeting Please click here 

Sen. Barbara Boxer
Book signing 7-8pm
Books Inc. in the Opera Plaza (San Francisco, CA)
601 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102


Sen. Barbara Boxer
Book Signing  7-8pm
Rakestraw Books (Danville, CA)
522 Hartz Avenue   Danville, CA 94526


Pete Stark (CA-13)
9:00am - 10:30am 
40086 Paseo Padre Pkwy Fremont, CA 94538 

10:30am - 12:00pm 
835 E 14th St, San Leandro, CA 94577

Sen. Barbara Boxer
Book Signing 12:30-1:30pm
Barnes & Noble (San Jose, CA)
3600 Stevens Creek Boulevard
San Jose, CA 95117


Mike Thompson (CA-01) 
5:00pm - 7:30pm
105 Zinfandel Lane St. Helena, CA 94574 
Mike Thompson's 18th Annual Pasta Feed 

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