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NOTE: I just got off the phone with my family in Arizona. I want to say VERY STRONGLY something I said further down in the post: Feelings were intense at the town hall but from where I was, locked outside, THERE WAS NO VIOLENCE IN TAMPA! I will leave to those who were inside to say what happened there because I have no personal knowledge. On the outside people were angry and they were loud. They were also WELL BEHAVED. I don't know if reports to the contrary are from people who have an agenda BUT I would emphasize that any talk of violence or riots is far outside of the scope of my personal experience at the meeting.
I got to the "public" townhall sponsored by Rep. Kathy Castor and the SEIU an hour and a half before the doors were scheduled to open. Apparently, it would not have mattered when I arrived. We stood out in the 90 plus degree weather only to be told that that the hall had been filled through a side door and no one else would be let in.
The crowd surrounded the building. We stood in front of every door and window and chanted "just say no" and "live or die". The crowd was well behaved but really worked up. I heard several people say that there were three thousand people outside. I can't confirm it but I certainly don't doubt it.
From time to time people would come outside from the building carrying Obama signs and yell at the crowd. A woman wearing a Obama tee shirt came out and got in to the face of an elderly man standing near me. I've got to give him credit, he held his own even when she was literally nose to nose with him. A policeman worked his way over and told her to move on. At another point, a man came to the doorway who had his shirt all but ripped off and bleeding from scratches in his chest. People rushed forward to find out what happened and I ended up so pent in that I couldn't even raise my arms to get a picture. Despite how he looked, it didn't appear that he was badly hurt because he was smiling and laughing while talking to the police. He was only a few feet away from me but I couldn't hear anything he was saying. I have no idea which "side" attacked him.
There were a couple of women who had signs that said, "please fix health care." Even when the crowd got loud, the women were treated with respect and everyone gave them room.
At one point someone in an Obama shirt opened the door that I was standing right in front of. Standing just inside was a union member that is affiliated with my employer. He saw me and took my picture. The man standing next to noticed and I explained the situation to him. Within moments I had several people ask me if I would be "okay" and I assured them that I would be. I was really touched that total strangers would show concern for me.
I am upset, like everyone else that showed up, that we were locked out of what was supposed to be a public meeting. On the other hand, I am really proud of my fellow citizens. We represented every age group, every race and ethnic group. Rep. Kathy Castor made it clear that she doesn't represent us. That is okay. Next election, we will find someone who does.
From what I am seeing on Greta Susteren somebody got inside!
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.
I can't speak to what happened inside the hall but the liberal St Pete Times shows where they stand by using words like "spectacle" and "near riot"". There was neither taking place outside. .
The spectacle at the Children's Board in Ybor City sounded more like a wrestling cage match than a panel discussion on national policy, and it was just the latest example of a health care meeting disrupted by livid protesters. Similar scenes are likely to be repeated across the country as lawmakers head back to their home districts for the summer recess.
Thursday's forum/near riot was sponsored by state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, and the Service Employees International Union, who apparently had hoped to hold something of a pep rally for President Obama's health care reform proposal.
Early reports coming in from Florida indicate the hastily scheduled townhall with Kathy Castor ended badly, as predicted, because of SEIU thugs.
The event was conveniently held in a forum where only 250 people could fit. 1000 people showed up. SEIU members were given reserved seating that took up at least half of the 250 seats. As people came in who visibly oppose the Democrats healthcare plan, SEIU members barred access to the room.
Again, the people I saw were angry and loud but well behaved. It was awful to stand for so long in blistering heat and humidity only to fins out that the organizers had stacked the hall. There was shouting. People did let their feelings known but I want to emphasize that there was no riot.