I never would have expected it to happen this quickly, but after several health care town hall meetings where concerned constituents asked questions and challenged Democrat congressmen over their support of health care legislation, the Democrats have struck back with violence. When packing the halls with picked supporters failed to silence opposition and smear campaigns about "astroturf" and fictional corporate organizers didn't discredit genuine grassroots protest, on Thursday they decided to send in the thugs.
Town halls in St. Louis and Tampa were marred by forced exclusion of constituents and disrupted by violence against protesters from uniformed members of the Service Employees International Union, a group which has a history of staging protests with paid agitators and engaging in organized intimidation and violence. In Tampa, the purple-shirted SEIU thugs allowed only handpicked attendees into the hall to speak with Rep. Kathy Castor, excluding over 1500 local residents who had waited peacefully in line for hours. When a few activists got in and tried to videotape the meeting, they were forcibly ejected, and at least one man was injured in the process.
In St. Louis, the role of the SEIU purple-shirts was much the same. Hundreds turned out to talk with Rep. Russ Karnahan, but only a limited number of picked people were allowed in through a side door, while the real constituents waited in line. Karnahan had been mildly heckled at a similar event last month and clearly was not going to let it happen again. After the St. Louis event, an African-American man who was selling Gadsden flags and political buttons outside the hall was attacked by several SEIU thugs, knocked to the ground while one of his attackers shouted a racial insult, and was beaten as onlookers tried to intervene. He was subsequently taken to the emergency room. Six of those involved in the violence were arrested, including Jack Wagman, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The similarities between these incidents is striking. In both cases, attempts were made to exclude regular constituents and control who was in the audience. In both cases, there were efforts to keep people with video equipment out of the events. In both cases, SEIU members were present in union t-shirts and were the instigators of violence.
In the aftermath of both events, eyewitness accounts and news reports differ considerably. Media reports largely gloss over the fact that protests began only after citizens who had waited for hours were excluded from the events, and mostly don't mention the involvement of union workers. They also focus on observations from Democrat organizers and speakers repeating the party line that the protesters were sent there by lobbyists for the insurance industry. Eyewitness accounts are notably different in that they include evidence that the protesters were mostly non-violent local citizens with genuine concerns who were targeted for harassment, and ultimately violence, by union thugs working with the Democrat party organizers. They are also backed up by video confirming the presence and actions of SEIU thugs.
The crowds of concerned constituents at these town halls were considerably larger than at those held earlier in the month. As media coverage grows, and the left and the administration continue to attempt to demonize and misrepresent grassroots activists, we may see more radicalization and even larger and angrier crowds turning out to protest rather than participate. Involved groups like the Republican Liberty Caucus have urged their members to remain civil; to attend events to ask questions and engage in reasonable dialog, but if lawmakers continue to treat their constituents like enemies, responding to their legitimate concerns with exclusion, insults and thuggery, then tensions are bound to escalate.
Americans deserve representatives who are responsive and accountable. If you're going to hold a town hall, then let the people in and let them ask questions and state their concerns. That's participatory democracy. Talking only to crowds of partisans and using union thugs to intimidate constituents and silence dissent are the tactics of tyrants and cowards.
In this video from Tampa, citizens are forced out of the town hall immediately prior to the incident in which the attendee in the green t-shirt in this video is roughed up.
A brief interview with the Tampa man who was manhandled and injured by union thugs.
July 22nd town hall appearance in which Rep. Russ Carnahan misrepresents CBO report findings and is confronted by a citizen who is then removed from the hall.
Large crowd which waited for hours in line in St. Louis without being allowed into the hall.
Video of side door where SEIU members were alllowing in only selected people to attend the St. Louis town hall.
Video of attack on Kenneth Gladney after St. Louis town hall.