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Competing rallies turn boisterous outside courthouse
Washington – As the crowds grew bigger on day two of the Supreme Court hearings on health care, they also grew a little scurrilous.Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., addresses Tea Party supporters and opponents of the health care overhaul Tuesday in front of the Supreme Court.Supporters of the Affordable Care Act made such a racket as former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann spoke that only bits of her speech could be heard.”The government believes it has the power to tell you to buy vegetables,” Bachmann said, standing at a lectern surrounded by 40 to 50 health care law protesters and at least as many reporters. “What kind of country is this?””I love vegetables!” a health care law supporter yelled.Rep. Bachmann, R-Minn., said the debate was dividing America.”It’s ladies’ night!” someone yelled, as supporters of the 2010 law chanted, “The health care is for me, the health care is for you, the health care is for every American family.”Two protesters with American flag kerchiefs bounced in time to the supporters’ music while cheering for Bachmann.A few feet to Bachmann’s right, a woman with a pink “Protect Women’s Health Care” sign yelled as a woman with a “We Love the Constitution” sign shoved hers in front.As on Monday, backers of the health care law outnumbered the protesters, filling the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court with a samba line of signs, drumming and even dancing.There were agendas within agendas — from Planned Parenthood to the Tea Party Patriots to the 60 Plus Association.Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas came from New York City because she said Latinos have the highest uninsured rate in the country.”We have the most to win and the most to lose,” she said. “I think it’s important to see diverse support forthe law.”And the crowd was diverse: The law’s supporters were all races, ages and sexes. The protesters were mostly older and white, both male and female.A Tea Party speaker at the lectern said, “Let’s do a chant — they’ll join in because they’re too dumb to know better,” and then led the protesters in “We are the 99%.” But it didn’t last long. They started with, “Obamacare is doomed,” but they couldn’t drown out “We love Obamacare” — the numbers were against them.George Jannicelli came from New Jersey to see what the protest looked like. As an opponent of the law, he didn’t like some of what he saw.”We don’t go to their rallies and shout them down,” he said. “They’re really rude. There have been no arrests in the Tea Party.”He said the health care law means big government and an infringement of rights, and that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security have all been run into the ground — why create another governmentprogram?April Thomas of Washington, D.C., said she wanted to make sure bureaucrats in offices did not make any decisions without hearing her voice — and she wanted to take her 6-month-old daughter Tamera to her first rally.”It’s really opening my eyes to how the laws affect us,” she said, adding that she supports the law. “Nobody’s ever going to all be on the same page.”Kevin Mooneyhan, of the Tea Party Patriots, took to the stage to announce he was no longer a member of the United Methodist Church because the church had “subsidized” some of the signs the supporterscarried. He accused the supporters of being unemployed.”All they want is a free handout,” he said. “You’re going to have higher numbers if you bus them in and pay for their signs.”Tea Party supporters then started singing God Bless America and invited others to sing along, though no one could hear them over the drums and chanting.”The ones who oppose it are the ones singing God Bless America,” said Maureen Harris of Newark, Del., “while the ones who support it were screaming while that was going on. It’s really a shame.”She said the law amounts to socialized medicine and doesn’t allow Americans to choose their own health care plans. And, Harris said, requiring electronic medical records would allow “bureaucrats” to haveaccess, meaning there would be no doctor-patient confidentiality.”Read it back to me,” she said, reaching for a reporter’s notebook. “You’re the media.”Protesters carried signs that read, “Don’t believe the liberal media.”Dana Wax of New York supports the law, saying she wants women to have basic health care, such as birth control, but also that, as a person with a rare disease, she knows that she’ll be able to continueworking for a non-profit without worrying about finding a job that offers the best health insurance. Wax called the rally “exciting and exhilarating.””I’d say the other side is trying to instigate a little bit,” she said. “But we’re celebrating.”As she spoke, a teenage boy wearing a name tag that said “Christian Discoveries” along with his pals began calling backers of the law “baby killers” and “communists.”Travis Ballie stood nearby wearing a Statue of Liberty costume. The numbers of supporters, he noted, showed the overwhelming support for the Affordable Care Act. And the back-and-forth bickering?”This is America,” he said, his foam crown tipping a bit to one side. “This is free speech.”
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