A health care town hall meeting in Florida on Thursday dissolved into bouts of heckling and violent pushing and shoving among attendees.
The meeting in Tampa, which featured Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Florida State Representative Betty Reed, was another example of the tense battle lines that have been created in the passionate health care debate. Hundreds showed for the meeting at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, some carrying signs railing against President Obama’s proposed health care reforms. Hundreds more were not able to get into the meeting room. As Castor first began to speak, scuffles broke out as people tried to get into the meeting room. Parts of the congresswoman’s speech was drowned out by chants of “read the bill, read the bill” and “tyranny,” video of the meeting showed. At one point, an event organizer told the crowd, “If pushing and shoving continues, we will have to clear the room. The police will make the decision if it is still safe.” At times outside the meeting, people tried to drown out pro-Obama chants of “Yes we can” with chants of “Just say no.” Democrats have complained about similar demonstrations recently with White House spokesman Robert Gibbs accusing Republican groups of “manufacturing” public anger. Watch controversy over ‘orchestrated’ protests »
Examining the health care debate
Liberal groups have also started sending supporters detailed instructions on strategies to counter what they call organized disruptions of congressional health care town hall meetings. Conservative groups critical of Democrats’ overhaul proposals have created their own plans, sending out information such as links to search engines; lists that relayed the locations of upcoming town halls; confrontational questions to ask members of Congress and chants and slogans to use in and around the venues.
Obama met Thursday with a key group of Democrats and Republicans at the heart of Senate negotiations. The president huddled behind closed doors at the White House with the so-called “Gang of Six,” three Democrats and three Republicans working to find middle ground on the issue.