Current Weather
The Spy FM

5 Memorable Moments When Town Hall Meetings Turned To Rage

Filed by KOSU News in Politics.
August 7, 2013

As members of Congress retreated to their home states and districts during the 2009 August recess, the growing Tea Party movement and anger over the pending health care bill led protesters across the country to confront their elected representatives at town hall meetings.

Demonstrations at some of these gatherings led to fistfights, arrests and even hospitalizations. News networks and protesters with camcorders and cellphones captured the often unruly gatherings as disgruntled citizens took the opportunity to execute — often loudly — their right to free speech.

At one particularly hostile town hall meeting in Lebanon, Pa., a man in the audience rose to shout that then-Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., was “trampling on our constitutional rights” and that someday God would judge Specter and his fellow “cronies on the Hill.” The veteran senator left the meeting after being shoved and booed by other audience members. “We’ve just had a demonstration of democracy,” Specter quipped uncomfortably before moving on to another question.

At the beginning of a rowdy forum hosted by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., Mike Sola pushed his wheelchair-bound son up to the podium where Dingell stood and began to yell, “I’m his father and I want to talk to you face to face.”

Dingell was only accepting questions written in advance on notecards. Sola went on to loudly claim that Obama’s health care plan would provide “no care whatsoever” to his son, who has cerebral palsy. “You’ve ordered a death sentence to this young man,” he shouts before being escorted out of the room by police.

Sola appeared on Fox News criticizing the health care plan and threatening to use “lethal force” against people he said were harassing his family and trespassing at his house in the middle of the night after video of his outburst was widely circulated on YouTube and television.

Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., made headlines that summer when he responded angrily to a man in the audience who confronted him about the health care bill at a meeting designed to discuss a controversial highway plan. “What you’ve got to understand is, those of you are here, who have taken and came and hijacked this event that we’re dealing with here … this is not a health care event. You’ve played the choice to come here,” he told the man.

Scott spoke with NPR’s Tell Me More in 2009 about the meeting and what he called racist reaction to his support of the bill.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., struggled to keep a health care town hall meeting in Tampa under control as protesters crowded the room and the struggle turned physical. Hundreds of people showed up for the meeting to protest Obama’s plan and many were not allowed into the room. That didn’t stop them from banging on the door and drowning out the congresswoman’s remarks with shouts of “You work for us” and “Tyranny.”

Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., returned to Long Island during the August recess to find a crowd of angry protesters outside a town hall meeting prepared with chants like “Bishop, Pelosi — ain’t no difference,” “Throw the bums out” and “No cap and trade.”

In this video, Bishop walks by protesters who shout, “Anything to say to your constituents? Stop spending our money,” which they follow with passionate renditions of the Pledge of Allegiance and “God Bless America.” [Copyright 2013 NPR]

Leave a Reply

12AM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center