COLUMBUS, Ohio - Hundreds showed up at what was supposed to be a right-wing attack on Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy's office here yesterday. The event, however, proved to be much different from what the "teabaggers" announced and had planned.
Dueling demonstrations, each with around 200-300 folks, lined Olentangy River Road, the "teabaggers" attacking Kilroy for her strong support of health care reform, and an equal or greater force of people there supporting her stand.
"We just had to come out and stand with Mary Jo," said Tim Ely, a business agent for the Pipefitter's Union. "She's stood up for us in the legislature, and I'm just sick and tired of these right-wing thugs lying about health care and going around intimidating people. That crap's going to stop, now!"
Chants of "Pass it Now," "People's Needs, not Corporate Greed" and "Health Care, not Warfare" echoed against the building that houses Rep. Kilroy's office, and cars honked, responding to signs reading, "Honk to support Health Care Reform!" Many of the signs were hand-printed, many carried by people who have had to fight insurance companies as well as diseases.
On the "teabagger" side, the mood was much different. Chants and signs called on Kilroy to "Kill the Bill," but the undercurrent was extreme levels of anger, paranoia and frustration.
Dave Hysell, who described himself as "a proud American," stated that he was there "because the government lies." "They made the swine flu virus," he said, "but didn't make enough vaccine for the seniors. They're trying to kill off the seniors."
Nearby, a woman named Mary volunteered that "they have secret committees in place to decide who they can kill off." Asked how she'd know about them if they're secret, she said, "Oh, we have ways, we can find out."
Chris Grant, with the right-wing group, said that he opposed the proposed reform for two reasons. ""First, he said," it's going raise taxes, and I'm against all taxes, and, second, the bill eliminates choice."
On the pro-reform side, there was more of a festive atmosphere. People seemed happy, and especially encouraged, at the big turnout to support Rep. Kilroy and oppose the "teabaggers."
Faith Van Horne, a local artist, spoke about her concerns. "I'm really happy to see all the people here," she said. "I'm just so sick of the lies they're telling about health care reform."
While a police line separated the demonstrations, "teabaggers" yelled "Whore" and "Bitch" at women demonstrators and seemed anxious to create confrontations. A group of three "teabaggers" came across to the progressive side, standing behind folks, attempting to confront them. When Diane Smith approached the men, stating that she had M.S. and could not get insurance, one of the right-wingers just laughed at her, saying, "You've got health care, just go to the emergency room!"
"They are just disgusting," said Jeff St. Clair, who was there "because my wife has five incurable diseases and cannot get insurance coverage." He explained that his family was able to get some help from the MS Society, "But," he stated strongly, "we have a rich county. We should have health care coverage for everyone, with dignity! If every other nation can do it, we certainly can, as well!"
Norm Wernet, Ohio director for the Alliance of Retired Americans, was struck by how many "teabaggers" held signs about keeping Medicare free of "government control."
"It's such a shame that people aren't getting the facts, that these right-wingers put out so many lies," he said. "This health care reform bill will SAVE Medicare! Bush put private companies into Medicare and we are paying them 17 percent MORE than the norm. This bill will cut those funds and put Medicare on much stronger footing. We need this bill to save Medicare" (which, he noted with a grin, is, of course, a single-payer government-run program that runs pretty darn well!).
Leaving the rally, we heard that Rep. Kilroy said she would proudly continue to support health care reform.
Today, we learned that her fellow Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who'd previously stated his opposition to the present reform bill, announced he'd also vote YES!
"I have doubts about this bill. This is not the bill I wanted to support," the congressman said. "However, after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, my wife Elisabeth and close friends I have decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation. If my
vote is to be counted, let it count now."
To see a video of the Columbus demonstration, including tea party people yelling at a man who said he had Parkinson's disease - one man yelled, "If you're looking for a handout you're in the wrong end of town," one man yelled at him. "Nothing for free over here, you have to work for everything you get," another threw dollar bills at him - check out Raw Story.
Photos: Top, page shot from Raw Story; bottom is courtesy of Norm Wernet/ARA
This story was updated on Nov. 12, 2010, correcting a wrongly attributed quotation.