Reports: Glenn Beck fans turn health forum into ‘near riot’
By Stephen C. Webster
Published: August 6, 2009
Updated 5 hours ago
Update (at bottom): Video of town hall disruption surfaces on YouTube In a stunning display of anger, Florida Republicans and fans of Fox editorialist Glenn Beck turned a Tampa healthcare forum into a “near riot,” one reporter said, as they attempted to enter the meeting hall and drown out a group of community organizers and a member of congress.
There were at least two reports of violence at the forum.
“The meeting which was scheduled to begin at 6:00 at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County drew hundreds of people who quickly began to overwhelm staff and event organizers at the front entrance,” reported Tampa news station 10 Connects.
The channel added: “10 Connects photojournalist Kevin Carlson, [who was] inside the meeting reports at least one fist fight breaking out inside.”
Tensions were raised as Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) attempted to convene the meeting, only to be drowned out by protesters banging on the windows and jeering, “Tyranny!” and “40 million illegals.”
“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,” noted St. Petersburg Times reporter Adam Smith.
He continued: “Instead, hundreds of vocal critics turned out, many of them saying they had been spurred on through the Tampa 912 activist group promoted by conservative radio and television personality Glenn Beck. Others had received e-mails from the Hillsborough Republican party that urged people to speak out against the plan and offered talking points to challenge supporters.”
Outside the meeting hall, one Randy Arthur, of Oldsmar, Florida, was injured by door minders, according to one report. “[Hall] said he would file a police report,” reported Tampa Bay Online.
“He and his wife, Kathy, were outside the meeting room when organizers tried to close the doors,” the publication continued. “Randy Arthur and others tried to stop them ‘and he didn’t give up,” Kathy Arthur said.”
Mrs. Authur reportedly said her husband was “slammed into a wall,” suffering a ripped shirt and scratches on his chest.
Because of all the commotion, the forum ended early, 10 Connects noted. Those in support of the president’s health reform agenda were reportedly outnumbered at the meeting by nearly three-to-one. Such “mobs” have been denounced in recent days by Democratic lawmakers, while journalists like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow have revealed the corporate interests and Republican operatives that bankroll and organize these town hall disruptions.
In a prepared statement, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman echoed her party’s stance on the healthcare “mobs.” “Recently, [our] thoughtful discussions are being interrupted by angry mobs - well funded and organized by Washington special interests - attempting to drown out the voices of the hard-working Floridians who are desperate for health insurance reform,” she said.
“These groups are not concerned about Americans’ access to quality heath care, but are extreme ideologues, only interested in ‘breaking’ the President and thwarting the change Americans voted for last November.” Additionally, Fox editorialist Glenn Beck, who promoted the group that arranged this particular protest, earlier this week pleaded with his viewers to resist turning violent.
A recent CNN poll found a slim majority — 50 percent — support the president’s health reforms. The United States has almost 50 million uninsured citizens who face tremendous financial hardship should they ever fall ill or require hospital care. Obama’s proposed reforms seek to create a “public option” that would extend low-cost coverage to those who are ineligible for or otherwise cannot afford private insurance.
This video was published to YouTube on August 6, 2009.
This video is from Tampa’s local Fox News affiliate, broadcast Thursday, August 6, 2009. Raw Story