On the Ground in Belgrade: A Guest Post

(Cynthia, a Missoula resident, was on the ground for more than 5 hours at President Obama’s town hall meeting in Belgrade yesterday. Contrary to national media reports, events on the ground were downright hostile at times. I thank Cynthia for taking the time to write this post. – jhwygirl)

by Cynthia Wolken

I was one of the pro-reform protestors in the free-speech zone outside of President Obama’s town hall meeting yesterday on healthcare reform in Belgrade, Montana. I am shocked and disappointed at the mainstream media’s coverage of the protest and declarations that both sides acted ‘civilly’. Many of the anti-government protesters used violence, threats of violence, and intimidation to stifle the pro-reformists in the exercise of their first amendment right to assemble and protest.

In context, there were two groups with permits to protest on a few acres outside the Gallatin Field Airport that were set aside as a free-speech zone. The pro-reformist group was comprised of protesters supporting some form of healthcare reform – from those supporting the President’s proposal to those advocating for a single-payer system. The other group, organized by the Gallatin County Tea-baggers, was ostensibly there to oppose any legislation reforming the current healthcare system. I say ‘ostensibly’ because it was clear by their signage and rhetoric that most tea-baggers were merely using the forum to further an anti-government agenda by using violence and intimidation to stifle a true public debate. Their members included members of the Republican Party, right-wing extremists, and skinheads. Their messaging was on everything from abortion to second amendment and militia rights.

Messaging
I saw the following signs from tea-bagger protestors:
— “Go Back to Kenya!”
— Multiple pictures of Obama as Hitler
— Racist caricatures of Obama, including a sign depicted Obama with giant ears next to a pitcher of orange Kool-Aid

Rhetoric
Many of the tea-baggers attempted to shout down, shove, and otherwise invade the personal space of pro-reform protesters. I heard multiple use of the words ‘f*ggot,’ and ‘n*gger, ’ as well as use of the words ‘b*tch’ and ‘c*nt’ directed at female protesters.

Violence
Much of the violence and intimidation occurred before the town hall as both sides were wrangling for space on the corner – which had prime visibility. Two or three male tea-baggers were shoving and shouting at the pro-reformists to move – calling the space in the free speech zone their ‘property.’ They were primarily raging at women, children, and the elderly. They told a law-enforcement officer that if he did not make the pro-reformists move, the tea-baggers would do it themselves. At this point, with clear threats of violence, I advised the law enforcement officer – a Montana Highway Patrolman – to call for backup. It was some time before any backup arrived, and when it did, the additional officers did not stop the men from shoving the pro-reformists. They did not arrest any of the men for assault. When I asked one officer why he did not arrest a tea-bagger man when the officer clearly saw him shove a woman, he told me that we should be expecting that kind of response for being there. Finally, after the man shoved several more people, he was arrested and taken away. I later found out he was charged only with misdemeanor disturbing the peace rather than assault.

While the above violence and threats were taking place, a tea-bagger attempted to drive his diesel water-tanker, with the word ‘Freedom’ written on the side in glitter, into the crowd of pro-reformists to intimidate them into moving. Some brave pro-reformists stood in front of the grill of his truck to prevent him from driving into the crowd. A few minutes later, with no one to stop it, the trucker began to drive forward again into the crowd – which included children and people with limited mobility. I ran over to stand in front of the truck to prevent it from plowing into the crowd. A Gallatin Airport official – I still am not clear whether he was an actual police officer – yanked me violently away by the arm and threatened to arrest me for standing in front of the truck. When I asked him why he grabbed me, rather than stopping the driver of the truck, he told me I was on private airport property and that I could not do ‘anything I wanted.’ I told him that I was in a free-speech zone, which has a special legal meaning. He clearly had received no training on what this meant.

Later in the day, one of the organizers was using a bullhorn to lead chants to the pro-reformists. The tea-baggers became irate at how vocal we were and one of them shoved the bullhorn into the organizer’s face, injuring him.

I witnessed the above acts first-hand. Undoubtedly, there are many more egregious acts of violence and intimidation that occurred that must be documented. I am asking others who were there to please tell their stories. The real heroes of yesterday are ordinary Montanans – they are the people who were scared and were intimated, but came and stayed anyway because they know how important it is to use and preserve our right to participate in our democracy.

In the words of Voltaire, “So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.”

Yesterday’s protest is over, but the long-term fight is not. Militia groups, hate-groups, and other right-wing factions in Montana are continuing to use the healthcare debate – and current environmental and land-use issues – to organize and strengthen. We must continue to expose their anti-democratic actions and agenda and hold the media accountable when they fail to do so.

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  1. problembear

    decent countries provide for the well being of it’s citizens. nobody deserves to be pauperized simply because they get sick. nobody should lose their house because they need surgery to stay alive.

    the republicans are being barbaric, ignorant and dishonest with america by this tactic. it will come back to haunt them in the next election.

    we will pass new health care reform because the people of america demand that america join the decent countries of the world who take care of their citizens, regardless of means.

    only tyrants would argue that the poor and the middle class do not deserve the same decent health care available to the wealthy. america was not founded to provide only wealthy people with the right to pursue happiness. it is in my dna to vehemently fight for the right of the working poor and the middle class to claim that right.

    • irisflowers

      The only ones that were using foul language and violence were the SEIU and Planned Parenthood folks. I saw nothing undemocratic about the event outside the hall.

  2. goof houlihan

    “decent countries”

    I happen to think this one qualifies.

  3. problembear

    we intend to keep it that way goof- no thanks to you and the thugs and cowards described above……..

    • goof houlihan

      You don’t intend to keep any of it, problem bear.

      • problembear

        you’re right goof. we don’t just intend to do it. we shall overcome.

        http://militantapathy.blogspot.com/2009/08/so-when-is-max-baucus-going-to-have-his.html

  4. “Their members included members of the Republican Party”

    Time to name names, post photos, and expose this sort of behavior for what it is. Intimidation.

  5. Lizard

    thank you Cynthia for the report. really there’s no point in trying to talk sense to these people, because all they want to do is act like a bunch of angry baboons, railing against the liberals they’ve been told to hate, and the black guy they squeamishly have to accept as their president.

    the corporate media has opened up the sewer spigot, and all this ignorant rot is spewing out, as intended. why even continue trying to point out all the stupid reasoning and fear mongering that’s riling up all these folks about an issue that seems to me pretty simple: the cost of health care is out of control, leaves TENS OF MILLIONS of people out in the cold, and if it’s not fixed, our economic situation will continue to deteriorate.

    the reason why Obama can’t answer simple questions about how to pay for fixing health care is because he is allowing Balkus and a pack of slobbering blue dogs to create legislation that will preserve the pharmaceutical and insurance industries ability to keep fucking us to pad their bottom dollar.

    the gun nuts want to use their guns, the fundies want their fucking rapture, and your garden variety bigot assholes just want their chance to proudly act like bigot assholes. if these idiot obstructionists get their way and kill the best chance we’ve had in 15 years to fix health care, then they’ll get their chance to live out their hate/death fantasies on the rest of us.

    why aren’t these people pissed off at Goldman Sachs, or Haliburton, or Monsanto? why can’t they figure out who the real looters of their precious tax dollars are?

    i guess our society just doesn’t work that way. while the actual thieves continue stealing what’s left to steal, these brainless foot soldiers have been deployed to kill health care reform.

    what a decent country we live in. i wonder what my favorite socialist, Jesus, would think about America?

    • That bit about the rapture is not far off. Remember that some of these people support those in congress who believe nothing can destroy the world (nukes, small pox, H1N1, Glenn Beck)–except GOD.

      The question is not, “What would Jesus think?” But, “Why can they not care about others?” And sadly, the answer is, “Doesn’t Jesus already do that for me?”

  6. problembear

    @duganz………well now…….isn’t that special….

  7. goof houlihan

    “I am asking others who were there to please tell their stories.”

    Me too. I’ve forwarded this to some of the people I know who were there.

    • Anon

      Perhaps some of the more Liberal members of the Montana Legislature will chime in. I saw Sen. Kaufman and Rep. Mary Caferro walking around with the SEIU bunch. I also saw 3 Republican Reps there too, along with some Republican Central Committee Chairs. There may have been some Democrat Central Committee Chairs there also – I don’t know any so have no idea.

      I didn’t personally arrive until a few minutes after noon so I cannot comment first hand on what transpired before I got there. After I arrived, I saw no violence or profanity. The SEIU people had taken over the intersection which was legally permitted to the TEA people. Each side was engaged in chanting and waving their signs.

      A Central Committee Chair did tell me that the “Go back to Kenya” sign was way out of order and I believe asked the person to get rid of the sign. I will confirm the presence of some “Hitler” style signs.

      The TEA people had a sound system and once Obama began talking, people from both sides crowded around and listened to the broadcast of his speech. At that point, the crowd was mostly quiet – a few “boo’s” when the introductions were made as I recall, but other than that, just pretty quiet and listening.

      My own opinion is that yes, there is a health care crisis, yes we do need reform, but 1017 pages of a poorly written, impossible to understand bill is NOT the way to go about it.

      • Steve W

        Which bill are you speaking about Anon? Are you speaking of HR3200? or are you talking about the HELP Senate Committee Bill?

        Or are you taking about one of the other bills?

        If you could clarify which bill you are saying isn’t the way to go, it would make discussion about it possible. Thanks.

        Also, which ever bill you are talking about, what in the bill don’t you like and what do you think needs to be in the bill that isn’t in it?

        • Anon

          Steve,

          I have not read the entire bill (HR3200). I have taken the time to download it and have looked at specific sections (maybe 25) in references to some internet stuff floating around with various claims. The vast majority of the claims seemed to really stretch the language and would not have been my interpretation for most of those sections.

          I don’t think it should take a bill of this length to implement some meaningful reform. As I recall, there are two SCOTUS cases – one from 1925 and one from 1936 that basically say the Government has no say in medical care – it is up to the States. 5-6 short, separate bills should provide a LOT of reform.

          Personally, I would like to see the following (I even agree with Obama on a few things but don’t tell my more conservative friends :-):
          1. Get rid of the pre-exisiting crap. Preventing the insurance companies from cherry-picking might make their huge profits a tad smaller – tough!
          2. Reform it so once you pay your premiums and expect coverage, when you need it you don’t get dropped.
          3. There has to be a way to get rid of a lot of the waste, fraud and abuse in the current system. Too many doctors practice defensive medicine and not preventative medicine. There are too many un-needed tests and procedures.
          4. We need to increase competition amongst insurance companies. I can buy auto or life insurance most anywhere – why not health insurance?
          5. Something needs to be done for people with no insurance. At the very least, they should not be paying 30-50% more for the same treatment as someone with insurance.
          6. I think we might be able to get to a plan that provides basic insurance for everyone and if you want better coverage, then you buy supplemental insurance – but that is getting close to allowing the rich to live because they have more money and could be a tough pill to swallow.

          There’s a start for discussion :-)

          • JC

            What you propose still does nothing to control costs. Much of the existing bills’ language serves to control costs for Medicaid and Medicare.

            Insurance reform is one major part of the bills. Controlling costs for existing entitlements is another. The third part is how to provide coverage to those who can’t get it due to cost.

            I fear that providing coverage to those who can’t afford it will fall by the wayside first. Next to fall will be cost controls for Medicare and Medicaid.

            What we will be left with is some tepid insurance reform that will only benefit those who currently have policies. We will still be left with the huge problems of Medicare and Medicaid cost explosions and unaffordability for those who have been costed out of the system.

            I see nothing guaranteeing the “affordability” part of this cycle of reform to all Americans, if it is downgraded to “health insurance reform.”

            I fear that what is happening is that the “haves” will get reform and cheaper insurance, and the rest of us “have nots” will pay for it.

          • goof houlihan

            Tort reform.

  8. Big Swede

    “Pictures of Obama as Hitler”?

    Perish the thought.

    • Ed Childers

      Nasty.
      But MoveOn didn’t make it, no matter how loud Dick Army’s FreedomWorks shouts that they did.
      MoveOn had a contest in 2004. This was a nasty submission to the contest.
      MoveOn did not ever use the submission for anything, as far as I know; somebody show me where they did and I’ll recant. Some information at:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/06/us/the-2004-campaign-advertising-bush-hitler-ads-draw-criticism.html
      FreedomWorks now features the submmission on their website to refute Rachel Maddow’s statement that MoveOn didn’t make or use it.
      Too bad Dick Army’s FreedomWorks has to lie. Does it mean they have no truths to tell?

      • JC

        Kinda reminds me of the republican tactic of inserting a provision into “democrat” health care bills, and then egging on the whacko right to rise up against it maintaining it constitutes a “death squad.”

        You’re right Ed. When you have no truths to sell, pass off lies instead. Thanks for the link!

      • goof houlihan

        “Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized MoveOn.org for posting advertisements that showed Hitler morphing into Mr. Bush. One asserted, ”What were war crimes in 1945 is foreign policy in 2003.”

        ”Their lack of discretion cheapens the level of political discourse in America.” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.”

        Were the Jewish groups wrong, particularly when the Move On spokesman admitted the ads had “slipped through”?

        But I agree with Mr. Foxman, any comparisons to Hitler cheapen the debate, and any argument declines in 1000 percent inverse ratio to the number of Hitler references.

  9. Lizard

    here’s a good article called My 1933 Nightmare

    snip:

    What do you have to do to humans to get them so stupefied that they believe Obama’s Hawaiian birth was some sort of conspiracy, replete with fake 1961 newspaper announcements? What sort of powerful drugs does one have to be on to make the argument that this rather considerably conservative president is a socialist? And then to call him a fascist in your next breath, blissfully unaware that the chasm separating the two ideologies not only makes them wholly different, but, indeed, oppositional. (You know, like in World War II. Maybe they’ve even heard of that.)

    In fact, this is not a matter of stupidity, though there’s loads of that to go around. But I bet that when it comes to finding arcane deductions to insert into their tax forms, these folks are actually quite clever. I bet a lot of them could reel off sports statistics or bible verses that would put your head in a fog. No, it’s not stupidity. Something else is going on here.

    It’s certainly not a matter of factuality, either. It’s astonishing to imagine that anyone might perceive the hopelessly flimsy Obama administration – even if it wasn’t directly following the folks who brought you the Dick Cheney vision of executive power – as some sort of dictatorial Bonapartist project. Are we even talking about the same human being here? Do they really mean the Obama who keeps trying to be bipartisan while Republicans trash him viciously at every juncture (including even members of Congress questioning the legitimacy of his American birth)? Do they really mean the guy who continually defers to Congress to shape the major legislative initiatives he claims to be in favor of? Are talking about the dude who lets a handful of Blue Dog Democrats roll him at every turn? This, even after eight years of Bush, we’re supposed to believe is some sort of totalitarian imperial president hell-bent on bringing fascism to America???

    No, this isn’t about lack of intellect or the remotest correspondence to reality. It seems pretty clear to me that this is almost entirely about fear. This is the empire crashing, and the former master class within it crashing as well. Both are falling to ordinariness and worse. They always were ordinary, of course, and always tools for exploitation by economic predators, but at least back in the day it wasn’t such a struggle to be middle class. And, most importantly, they could always feel good by telling each other that at least they were better than the hated bitches, darkies and fags. Oh, and Arabs. Beating them up, literally and figuratively, was (and remains) a good way to remind yourself of that superiority.

    But now even that small bit of compensation is gone. Your country can’t win a war against a bunch of third world ragheads. Your boss is cutting your salary again. The womenfolk have their own source of income now, and no longer have to put up with your blundering sexual advances to keep a roof over their heads. Perverts are marrying each other left and right. And now – WTF? – there’s some Harvard-educated spade in the White House, along with, even worse, his uppity-looking Harvard-educated all-superior-like even spadier woman.

  10. Ana

    Dearest Cynthia Wolken,
    You lost your argument when you referred to the other side as, Gallatin County Tea-baggers. It shows you don’t consider these people or their point of view as worthy as yours.. so you revert to childish derogatory name calling. Tsk Tsk Dear, you have truly tainted everything else you reported on. I can’t trust anything else you had to say. Next time perhaps you can attend future meetings with an open, non-prejudice mind.

    • problembear

      dearest anachronism-
      when right wing extremists deploy commercial vehicles and shove bullhorns into someones face to intimidate your group i hardly think the first thing that comes to mind is to consider their point of view as worthy. once the fanatics chose violence they abrogated any necessity for anyone to take them or their views seriously. as far as the name tea-baggers. they chose that ridiculous name themselves. ironic huh.

      • Ana

        I’m a Tea Party member, not a bagger. Name calling isn’t even allowed in high school debating class. Perhaps you didn’t find school worthy of your time. Again, it just shows the weakness in your thought processes. For some, I guess, whining, lying and name calling is the best they can do.

        • Did a Republican just denounce name calling? I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that was ironic.

          • Kay

            I Agree with Ana. I was there, and saw many of the things you reported up until the President started speaking. I am not a liberal, or rep, or a dem. Rather a citizen who wants a say. The problem is you “stooped” to their level by using derogatory names. Also, many below you are also guilty of this, stereotyping. Now all reps are, stupid, inhuman, and have no right to have their opinions. Dungaz just very clearly made my point. Now I would say Dungaz is just as stupid, close minded and predictable as reps he is talking about. Fortunatly I don’t see things that way. I don’t disagree with many statements made here, but I do have a problem with “the pot calling the kettle black.” In short I guess follow the saying, “Don’t throw rocks if you live in a glass house.”

          • Ana

            I’m an Independant.

          • JC

            Oh, sticks and stones and all that…

        • Liberal in Missouri

          Are you really offended to have been called a “Tea-bagger?” You guys should be glad you’re not being referred to as douche-baggers.

          • Ana

            Of course that is an educated comment. Tsk tsk..your mother and the Missouri education system must be so proud. Now DEBATE the issue on it’s merits and stop embarrassing yourself this way.

          • Liberal in Missouri

            “Now DEBATE the issue on it’s merits…”

            I’m not sure you should impugn Ms. Wolken’s or my own education when you can’t seem to master the difference between “it’s” and “its.”

          • Ana

            So, that is the best you have?

        • Jonathan

          Ya name calling is bad all together. I am not in support of it because it doesn’t help anything, however I suppose driving a semi into a crowd of people is no different then name calling, actually captain obvious told me it is worse. But in my objective search for truth it appears it is the right wing that has the majority of loud pundits that constantly engage in name calling, half truths, and fear tactics, which would suggest that it is ok to do these things…i mean if Rush can do it than we all can, right? So Ana, in my search for truth this all just leaves me confused. My main confusion is not whether or not name calling is right or wrong (as we know from school and Jesus it is not a good thing), yet there is something I understand even less and I was hoping Ana, being a tea party member, that you could help me learn more about. So I think the Tea-party’s stance is that government involvement is bad, at least in regards to the current health care debate…am i correct? So if your against government involvement in health care, does that mean your in support of corporate run health care? If the government has involvement in health care and mucks it up then we can vote to change it and therefore we have a form of over site- a check and balance as it were. But I don’t believe there is any such form of over site for private, corporate run health care, hence it is why we are where we are now with rising costs, pre-conditions, etc. Corporations are interested in making money not helping people. So I don’t think we can trust corporations to insure we have proper access to health care, and is why i am in support of a government plan – at least, according to the constitution, we have the ability to change it if it goes awry. It would seem that the tea party & people on the right are generally interested in not changing the current health care situation in America, and trusting corporate America with the health of Americans. Ana is this true, and if so why? Thank You

          • Ana

            Let me open by saying I encourage you all to read as much on this subject as possible..and then begin to form an opinion. A good site is..Congress.org – Home House Health Care Bill – H.R.3200: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 – U.S. Congress – OpenCongress Step away from the screaming on both sides and educate yourself on what is going on.
            I agree that healthcare needs to be worked with but to undermine the quality of care we now have for something ( within what’s projected to be as soon as 5-10 years) that leaves the government as the last one standing to provide health insurance to us is not a wise choice in my eyes. This is the same government that is saying Medicare is going bankrupt. This government wants to make your medical records attainable online. Well, they couldn’t stop hackers on July Fourth from attacking both the White House and Defense Department. U.S. eyes N. Korea for ‘massive’ cyber attacks – Security- msnbc.com Yup, I’ll pass on that part of the Bill thank you very much. I’m also not a fan of my tax dollars paying for illegal people in this country…PG 50 Section 152 in HC bill – HC will be provided to ALL non US residents, illegal or otherwise – SEC. 152. PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTH CARE.
            (a) IN GENERAL.—Except as otherwise explicitly permitted by this Act and by subsequent regulations consistent with this Act, all health care and related services (including insurance coverage and public health activities) covered by this Act shall be provided without regard to personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services.
            PG 91 Lines 4-7 HC Bill – Govt mandates linguistic appropriate services…… Example – Translation for illegal aliens. The bill requires “linguistically appropriate services”. What this means is not specified, but there is no limitation on who is entitled to this treatment, so illegals presumably would benefit.
            Then there is ..
            PG 85 Line 7 HC Bill – Specs for Benefit Levels for Plans = The Govt will ration your Healthcare.
            Section 203 specifies benefit levels for plans. It does not expressly specify the power to ration, but that will be a likely result of this system.
            Pg 30 Sec 123 of HC bill – THERE WILL BE A GOVT COMMITTEE that decides what treatments/benefits you receive. The committee will be patterned on the current committee that does the same thing for Medicare.Pg 42 of HC Bill – The Health Choices Commissioner will choose your HC Benefits for you. You have no choice.
            The statutory language is ambiguous on this point. The HCC has this duty under Section
            142 (a)(1):
            QUALIFIED PLAN STANDARDS.—The establishment of qualified health benefits plan standards 8 under this title, including the enforcement of such standards in coordination with State insurance regulators and the Secretaries of Labor and the Treasury
            I could go on but I think you need to read these things for yourself. I rather deal with and fire private insurance than have to deal with another bloated government department. I saw the horrible healthcare the VA Hospital in Albany, NY giae to my father. If this is how Govt. Healthcare treated it’s War Heroes, what makes you think it will treat you and your family any better? First hand I had to deal with what they think is healthcare in England. I wouldn’t put my dogs through that.
            So Jonathan, go out there and read. Then double check what you have read. Make sure it’s true and then come back and we’ll again debate over Big Business or Big Government.

  11. Big Swede

    I’m questioning the whether or not there were skinheads present.

    Did they wear T-shirts, to identify themselves? Badges or buttons?

    Or maybe you just saw a couple bald guys and freaked.

    • Given that I’m taking incoming traffic for two days now from multiple pages of resistnet.com/montanaresistance, I’m going to doubt your “bald buys” theory, Big Swede.

      This thread has obviously piqued their interest.

      • Big Swede

        I’m not doubting your traffic.

        I’m doubting Cindy’s perception that skinheads were present. Do skinheads wear like colored T-shirts, tats, buttons or badges?

        Or is the fact that some signs were offensive signified their presence?

      • Ana

        So..let me figure out this train of thought you have here J…
        So if you saw me and I was black would you automatically think I was a Black Panther? If I read Good Housekeeping then I guess that means my home is spotless? Are you judging a book by it’s cover? Does that make you bias? Perhaps intolerant, possibly racist? Prejudice ? Hmmmmm.. You aren’t sounding too good here Dear. OPEN up that mind and don’t be so judgmental.

  12. problembear

    i should hope in the future that every one of these events is videotaped by at least two people in each group just to keep everyone honest. it might promote more civil behavior on everyone’s part. i hate to promote this method of crowd control but it seems that the rhetoric and the safety issues demand it.

  13. Ana

    Excuse me Cindy, It seems a reporter (who did interview you) saw a completely different protest go down than you did. It seems you over did your violent drama quota by just a bit….
    Good Idea Ana , I usaully won’t waiste my time on Moron’s like that Blogger , but you have made me think twice now . I also found this in the Bozeman paper , This will go on for days , but will fade :

    By JESSICA MAYRER Chronicle Staff Writer
    Tea Partiers and advocates of a medical system overhaul debated not only health care reform while awaiting President Barack Obama’s Friday arrival, they tangled over who should claim a chunk of grassy land at the corner of Frontage and Airport roads.

    Single-payer and public-option advocates, who favor government-run insurance options, clustered tightly together as a large red fire truck with a “tea party” sign attached to its silver tanker attempted to pull toward them and the coveted corner that most attending the town hall meeting needed to pass.

    Tea partiers secured a permit for the high-profile spot, said Gallatin Field security chief William Dove. And airport security cordoned off areas to separate the various factions. But it didn’t work.

    And as things started to heat up, single-payer advocate Cynthia Wolken, from the Montana Human Rights Network, held her ground just off Airport Road, protest sign in hand.

    “I think we can all have a civil discourse,” Wolken said. “If no one is using violence, we can all share space.”
    Everyone should have access to health care, Wolken said. “I believe health care is a human right.”

    Meanwhile, Henry Kriegel, Bozeman Tea Party organizer, dueled with Service Employees International Union’s Shaine Truscott, both of them wielding bullhorns. And down Frontage Road, a white-haired woman debated a man in a blue shirt holding an orange sign saying, “government control, from the cradle to the grave.”

    “That’s just bologna,” the woman said.

    Eventually, tea partiers backed off, moving the fire truck back and setting up shop away from the intersection.

    “I’m not here to fight these individuals,” Kriegel said. “I’m here to fight for the principles of freedom.”

    “We’re not the bad guys,” he said.

    But, there is a fundamental difference between what tea partiers want, fiscal responsibility, and what single-payer and public-option advocates are pushing for.

    This country can’t afford the current tax-and-spend mentality, which would inevitably accompany a government-run system, Kriegel said.

    “I love my country,” he said. “We’re no longer going to take it.”

    While the government should have no role in medical delivery, the health care system does need some work, Kriegel said. The best way to reel it in, though, is to curb malpractice suits and provide incentives for folks to stay healthy.

    Meanwhile, though, public-option advocate Judy Aziz, a single mom with no health insurance, expressed frustration. Why is it that insurance and pharmaceutical companies are making money, she asked, while everybody else is facing financial challenges?

    “All the rest of us are really struggling,” Aziz said.

    Through the entire ruckus, there were no reports of violence, although police did arrest one man for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. No details of that arrest were available later Friday, and the man was released later that afternoon, police said.

    As the day wore on, various factions began to intermingle and the tone quieted. As Air Force One landed on the tarmac at Gallatin Field, some folks held signs higher, others cheered and some booed.

    • What were the details of that arrest? Or don’t they matter?

      • goof houlihan

        There were at least two arrests that day, but one was not at the permitted protest area. I think both involved persons protesting Obama’s policies or visit. There is no reason to doubt the Chronicle’s report. I am certain that the Chronicle’s report about the intrusion into the permitted area is the reasoning behind Cynthia’s non-quote from the police officer, “he told me that we should be expecting that kind of response for being there”, with “there” being the area permitted to the Tea Party. Her use of the vague pronoun gives the reader the opportunity to infer that “there” meant “protesting anywhere” or even perhaps, “here in Gallatin County”, but the officer’s use of place was actually very specific.

        The Chronicle narrative and others who are posting here are not “bald guys with swastikas”, and most of the immoderate language (eg. “douchebags”) is coming from the far left, jh. The original post asked for “others who were there to please tell their stories” and “others” have responded and provided unbiased third party observations as well.

  14. problembear

    Looks to me like the jake eaton noise machine is swarming this blog in a desperate attempt to appear non-lunatic.

    John Adams has the video of righty thugs and fanatics in action at mt lowdown

    Read those cards and weep. We’ll use it in the next election.

    Read em and weep jake. Looks like your clumsy ham-handed tactics are backfiring on you.

  15. Ana

    Dear Problem,
    I’ve taken the liberty (remember what that is?) to show how Major Networks (not the Evil Cable News..Booo scary,scary) reported about the turn out for Obama’s Healthcare town hall. I believe you’ll see that most saw the group inside was..”friendly” to say the least. He is what they reported…
    CBS Describes Democrats as ‘Orchestrating’ Pro-Obama Town Hall in Montana

    On Friday’s broadcast network evening newscasts, the CBS Evening News uniquely noted that Democrats in Montana had “orchestrated” a friendly environment for President Obama at a Montana town hall event as many Democrats arrived early to secure tickets. After CBS correspondent Chip Reid filed a report in which he relayed that “this crowd was on [Obama’s] side,” and that “the questions were mostly softballs,” Reid brought up “orchestration” as one of the reasons for a friendly crowd: “So why wasn’t there more anger in here? For one thing, after accusing Republicans of orchestrating their protests, Democrats did some orchestrating of their own, getting in line early in large numbers and snatching up most of the tickets.”

    On the NBC Nightly News, substitute anchor Ann Curry led with Obama’s town hall appearance:

    The President was to squarely take on the anger we’ve seen in recent weeks over health care reform, flying to a town hall in a conservative part of Montana. The audience, we were told, was not pre-screened. But the meeting was more like a campaign rally than a debate over health care. The President even getting a standing ovation.

    NBC’s Chuck Todd passed on President Obama’s criticism of media attention given to angry critics at other events, and related that the President tried to get audience members to ask contrarian questions:

    CHUCK TODD: The President did take questions from a mostly supportive audience, but not before offering his own media critique of how town halls have been covered this week.

    On ABC’s World News, anchor Charles Gibson more briefly recounted Obama’s experience in Montana in front of a “friendly audience,” before showing a clip of the exchange with audience member Randy Rathie challenging Obama, before moving on to a report by correspondent David Wright, who also referenced the town hall event, which focused on the efforts by health care-related businesses to influence members of Congress. From the CBS Evening News:

    KATIE COURIC: Turning to the continuing battle over health care reform now, President Obama headed West today to big sky country to once again moderate his own town meeting. One of his goals, to win over some Blue Dog or conservative Democrats skeptical of his plans. Chip Reid is traveling with the President tonight in Belgrade, Montana.

    REID: So why wasn’t there more anger in here? For one thing, after accusing Republicans of orchestrating their protests, Democrats did some orchestrating of their own, getting in line early in large numbers and snatching up most of the tickets. Some here said they wanted to ask tougher questions, but didn’t even raise their hands. They were intimidated, they said, by the fact that this is the President of the United States, not to mention the fact that he’s surrounded by an adoring crowd and the Secret Service.

    #From the NBC Nightly News:

    ANN CURRY, IN OPENING TEASER: On the broadcast tonight, making the case: After days of attacks, the President takes on the critics to take back the message on health care. Where was the anger?

    CURRY: Good evening. I’m Ann Curry, in for Brian Williams tonight. The President was to squarely take on the anger we’ve seen in recent weeks over health care reform, flying to a town hall in a conservative part of Montana. The audience, we were told, was not pre-screened, but the meeting was more like a campaign rally than a debate over health care. The President even getting a standing ovation. We have this story covered tonight, beginning with the chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd, now joining us from Belgrade, Montana. Chuck?

    CHUCK TODD: Good evening, Ann. Well, the President just finished up the first of what are going to be back-to-back town hall meetings here out West. Colorado happens tomorrow. All of this part of [an] opportunity to try to regain the political momentum in his push for health care reform. President Obama came to the hills of Montana, with his entire family in tow, for what was billed as a town hall on health care but at times felt more like a campaign rally.

    TODD: The President did take questions from a mostly supportive audience, but not before offering his own media critique of how town halls have been covered this week.

    TODD: Today’s town hall was held in an an airplane hangar easily secured from the public. And while the requisite protesters were gathered about a half mile away, the demonstration never got out of hand. .

    TODD: All right, tomorrow, Ann, another town hall in Grand Junction, Colorado, a conservative part of that state. But the tickets were handed out a little bit differently there. We’ll see what kind of reception he gets. Ann?

    • Ana – I appreciate your stopping in and offering your observations.

      I will say, I can’t help but wonder the difference of the national coverage which was silent to any reference to lack of civility in the protests, and the local coverage which did somewhat detail the voracity of the protests, despite the disparity of headline to content.

      I can’t help but wonder if the President’s statement about “the press loves a ruckus,” which referenced media attention to anti-reformers, didn’t play out a role in the coverage this weekend of his 3 townhall meetings? Was coverage more focused on the issue of health care instead of the ruckus?

      Is either more newsworthy than the other?

      I appreciate that on either side there are those that are passionate – and some more passionate than others – about reform. For me, it seems that the entirety of the story is important. I’m glad there was national focus on the issue of Obama’s message as he came through Montana. I do think, though, that to make it sound like everything was practically docile – and to ignore physical violence and references to nazis and communists – is leaving out an important facet of the story.

      • goof houlihan

        Sounds like the national media was investing in Big Ruckus in the Big Sky, and they got a 2008 return instead.

        The got the reason for the “campaign” like feel of the meeting wrong too. Half the tickets, roughly, seemed to be patronage, not the result of people waiting in line early. Of the 1700 seats some reported being set up, no more than 800 or 900 were given out to those waiting in line.

        That, and people in Montana are just more polite, in my experience.

    • problembear

      spin it anyway you want ana or jake or whatever corporate paid spin doctor is hiding behind this alias….

      the fact of the matter is most people do not trust private health insurers. they have been ripped off by them for thirty years and americans are tired of it. tell your corporate masters this laundry wash of your violent and ill-mannered crowd’s attempt to intimidate montana’s pro-health reform citizens will not work. we have the videos to prove it. it will come back to haunt you just like trying to defraud the voters of montana by attempting to deny our right to vote backfired in jake’s face last year.

      most americans and montanans do not believe in rewarding bad behavior. that goes for your paymasters and for max baucus….

      • Ana

        Dear Pooh Bear, I feel as if I’m wasting my time, but here goes… I’m a REAL person. I’m a middle-aged housewife from a union family who married a union man. I’m not a scary big corporation nor do I shill for one. I’ve spent a great deal of my working life self-employed. I’ve ALWAYS have paid for what I needed or wanted. If I didn’t have the money then I went without. No one ( or our Government with YOUR Tax Dollars) has EVER paid for my food, housing, healthcare or transportation. I’m proud to say I’ve done it on my own as did my Grandparents who fled Stalin. Can you say the same?
        So bring on your little videos and photos. There is nothing scary about the truth.

  16. problembear

    whoever you are….you are out of chips at this table and the house has a mandatory ante…….

    by the way anachronism, you moved your sleeves a little fast on the post prior to this one and we saw the hidden aces….

    no patience for cheaters here. try some other rubes….

    • Ana

      Yup, I thought so. Another limited soul yelling on a blog. So much for a debate.
      What the hell are you talking about. You are making no sense. If you think you have the gonads to call me a cheater Pooh, you better give some example or you’ll be only proving yourself a blowhard.
      I’ll be staying, thank you very much. Now go get help for that gambling problem Dear.

  17. Charlie SGV 21

    I would like to note that using the blanket term “skinhead” as automatically meaning racist is a misnomer. Where was the coverage 4 years ago when the National Front was counter-demonstrated on MLK Day by a Traditional Skinhead-led chapter of Anti-Racist-Action?

    Nobody bothers saying skinhead unless it’s involved with hate, despite the proof to the contrary. Racist skinheads are in the minority, but get the majority of the attention.

  1. 1 Reporter John S. Adams on the Ground in Belgrade, MT « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] this guest post from Cynthia Wolken has garnered about half the attention it deserved…with a whole bunch of traffic incoming from […]




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