This guest post by Henry Kriegel details a Tea Party protest at an Obama health care town hall.
The Bozeman Tea Party and supporters clashed with paid union thugs including Service Employees International Union, a group affiliated with ACORN and the Montana AFL-CIO who bussed down union members and paid community organizers from Missoula. While the Obama supporters arrived in the middle of the night, claimed our permitted area and had an early advantage with numbers and with positioning, we eventually turned out 300-350 people and tea-bagged them.
The opponents, who turned out approximately 150 people only a few of whom I could recognize from Gallatin County, initially outfoxed and out-positioned us. We tried several times to remove them as soon as we arrived in the early morning. The police were not able to remove them. Bill Dove, chief of airport security, using a megaphone told all of us that he and his men were there to protect the President of the United States and the Town Hall event, told the Obama supporters to leave our area and urged us to keep our cool. The Obama supporters refused to heed his order. Instead they continued to goad us. It was bordering on getting out-of-control but we refused to take the bait. We were outnumbered at that time—our people arrived late—and decided to back off, set up camp and do our program. After all, you can’t win a mud fight against pigs in a pig pen.
While we were regrouping, we eventually overran their chants. When our volunteer fire truck was set up with our loud PA system and put into position, we overwhelmed them and the battle was pretty much over. The fire truck was the perfect platform. I climbed on top and began our program welcoming our supporters to America’s Second Revolution. We kicked into high gear and pumped up the crowd. Tammy Hall also got it going. One guy, whom we never met before, Dr. David McKalip, a Florida-based neurosurgeon, took time from his Yellowstone Park vacation with his family and joined us when he heard about our rally. He gave a great speech. Dr. McKalip spoke about the need for accessible and affordable high-quality health care free from government intervention and the need to empower patients with the financial and decision-making power taking it from government and insurance companies. Anyone who wanted to speak got an opportunity. Janice Hall, an emergency room doctor from Billings and Jennifer Stillings, a local nurse both spoke. A woman from England discussed her country’s experience with government-run healthcare. Activists Bob Adney, Tom Tuck, Rep. Mike More (HD-70), Billie Orr and Stan Jones among others also spoke. Patient’s First, a national group was holding up the rear with their parked bus, gathering signatures on petitions and handing out information.
The opponents are led by paid hacks. In addition to union members, the Fund for Public Interest, a left-leaning pro-Obama non-profit organization is apparently paying $10-15 per hour, up to $600 per week for campaign workers to “go out in communities around the country and help make change happen.” With offices in Missoula, it is likely that the Fund sent people to the Friday protest.
Unlike many of the pro-Obama reformers, we are volunteers and do our work not for free, but at a personal loss and are proud to pay this small price for freedom. We, like most Montanans have a high level of distrust, concern and outrage over government control over private industries, and in this case the healthcare industry which comprises 17 percent of our total economy. We are tired of bank bailouts, massive unsustainable spending and government takeover of private industries such as the auto industry, the banking industry and the insurance industry. While many of us agree that healthcare needs reform, we also feel that the best place to start is with tort reform to reduce the costs of physicians’ malpractice insurance and incentives for maintaining health.
The Sunday prior to President Obama’s visit Tea Party protesters gathered at the Museum of the Rockies to greet Senator Max Baucus. Baucus, who acted like John the Baptist clearing the way for the arrival of the Chosen One, was in town to promote the Make Health Happen Montana conference. The President realizes the importance of Montana, in part due to Baucus’ position as Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and wanted to pressure the Senator into backing his more aggressive healthcare reform agenda.
While Baucus showed courage in getting out of his car and addressing Tea Party protesters for an impromptu question and answer session, his comments to the media the next day diminished our respect for him. In an interview with the Daily Inter Lake, Baucus said “he tried to talk with people protesting outside the conference, but said they would not let him speak" which is a fabrication. He said that one demonstrator "was bused in from Texas" implying that others were also bussed in is also a lie. We don’t need to bus people in because our volunteers, who in overwhelming numbers live in Gallatin County and vicinity, were willing to come out in full force on a Sunday night to stage this protest. Baucus went further in insulting us calling us "the closest thing to a mob that I’ve ever experienced in my life." I guess he’s never been to a Cat-Griz game before. Insulting tea party patriots and offering patent lies is the new political speak and modus operandi of the White House. It is a shameful attempt to denigrate us, dismiss our concerns, and project blame. It’s unfortunate because we had some very credible people at the rally including Dr. JD Clark, a local podiatrist who asked Baucus a pressing question about government micromanagement of his practice; Peter O’Reilly, M.D., a retired anesthesiologist; local activists Nick Landeros and Dan Bennett and others spoke during the open mike session.
The scene outside the President’s Town Hall meeting nearly a quarter mile away in the free speech zone was in stark contrast to the kumbaya session inside the hangar. In the field, paid left-wing extremists led by paid members of the SEIU and community organizers, bused down along with Montana AFL-CIO members—the new brownshirts of our tim—were trying to cause havoc. They attempted to goad us into direct conflict; we ultimately refused, regrouped, got on message and blew them into silence once our program began. Some media were present but the stage for this confrontation was purposefully set far away from the President and the media entourage and was barely reported on.
Tea Party protesters and other groups are organizing a 912 rally in Washington, DC and at state capitals throughout the country including the Helena Capital. The bottom line is that we, the people, surround them, the paid union members and their loyalists. We tea-bagged them in Bozeman and will do it again in Helena and around the nation.
Henry Kriegel, a marketing professional, is one of the Bozeman Tea Party organizers and a talk show host of Open Range Thursdays broadcast on KMMS AM1450 from 4:00-600 pm.