Thursday, August 06, 2009

Rich Trumka's Statement on Mob Violence at Town Halls

The following is a statement that I received from Rich Trumka, currently Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO. He will be the AFL-CIO president within a few weeks.

August 6, 2009

Every American has the inalienable right to participate in our democratic process. Our politics is passionate, heartfelt and often loud -- as was the founding of our nation. But that is not what the corporate-funded mobs are engaging in when they show up to disrupt town halls held by members of Congress.

Major health care reform is closer than ever to passage and it is no secret that special interests want to weaken or block it. These mobs are not there to participate. As their own strategy memo states, they have been sent by their corporate and lobbyist bankrollers to disrupt, heckle and block meaningful debate. This is a desperation move, meant to slow the momentum for change.

Mob rule is not democracy. People have a democratic right to express themselves and our elected leaders have a right to hear from their constituents -- not organized thugs whose sole purpose is to shut down the conversation and attempt to scare our leaders into inaction.

We call on the insurance companies, the lobbyists and the Republican leaders who are cheering them on to halt these *Brooks Brothers Riot* tactics. Health care is a crucial issue and everyone - on all sides of the issue - deserves to be heard.

A couple of points by way of explanation.

First, the "Brooks Brothers riots" that Rich mentioned refers to the November 19, 2000, demonstration organized by the GOP to shut down the hand recount of the contested Florida presidential election. Scores of young Republicans descended on South Florida to intimidate the election canvassers, and some overzealous demonstrators even pursued the chairman of the Dade County Democratic Party, who had to be escorted to his car by the Miami-Dade police. That particular incident prompted Jerrold Nadler, a New York congressman to say that he "dectected a whiff of fascism."

That astroturf action was well documented in the newspapers at the time, including the fact that many of the protestors were actually young Hill staffers. In fact, I later got to know one of them on a professional basis. She worked for John Kasich, who is now running for governor of Ohio.

To return to the point of this post, I would be the first to actually encourage those who have doubts, objections, and criticisms of health care reform to attend town hall meetings with their representatives. It is the right and duty of every citizen to participate in the democratic process. That's especially true for the loyal opposition. Of course, they should be there to dialogue with their representatives and fellow citizens.

What many of us are objecting to, however, is a well-funded, organized attempt to disrupt, shout down, and heckle elected officials and intimidate their fellow citizens with whom they might disagree. That's not democracy. That's one step away from a Beer Hall Putsch.


Cargosquid said...

If the unions are so caring about the 1st amendment, why did they restrict access to a Florida town hall meeting and actually assault a senior citizen?

The unions are starting the mob violence:

And the Unions are the organized astroturf:

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Ah, yes, Cargosquid, going to the usual suspects, right wing blogs, for all your information.

Unfortunately, the assorted tea baggers, birthers and other crazies have been caught on videotape and even by the mainstream media this time. Also, my side has ammunition too - go to the following sites:

All of these posts cover their antics extensively.

Nevertheless, two wrongs do not make a right.

I personally encourage people to attend town hall meetings, to speak up, and to express their opinions, concerns, and doubts about the health care reform plans. And believe it or not, both sides have concerns on this issue.

But dialogue and democracy are not fruitful when organized mobs attempt to shout down and subvert real dialogue. And, unhappily, the angry far rightwing end of the conservative movement (not to be confused with rational, legitimate conservatives, some of whom are deploring these actions too) seems to be the leading force behind threats, intimidation, and now violence tinged with racism.

And yes, that is a whiff of fascism when it occurs.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Update: Cargosquid, I went to your links during my lunch break, which I am still on.

I hate to tell you this but the only place I found any claims that those who beat up Kenneth Gladney were from SEIU were from Gladney's attorney, the blog that carried the attorney's letter of protest, some links to the St. Louis Tea Pary website, and a link to Michelle Malkin, whom I consider even less credible - or even sane - than Ann Coulter. In short, those were self-referential sources - a circle jerk, not real news sources.

The links to Jake Tapper and the St. Louis Dispatch make no mention of SEIU involvement with the violent attack.

Nevertheless, whoever physically attacked Kenneth Gladney, even if they were members of SEIU, were wrong to engage in physical violence. Period!

However, it also is clear from the more objective mainstream media sources that the protesters were, themselves, rude and intimidating to others. Here's an example.

During a town hall meeting that was supposed to be on the topic of aging, they kept shouting down those who wanted to stay on the original topic, kept yelling "liar" and other epithets, and attempted to prevent speakers from talking.

It's disingenous to engage in rude and intimidating behavior and expect nobody to respond in kind. In fact, only a real bully thinks he is entitled to do that.

And like so many bullies, once somebody stands up to them, they cry foul. Heck, they even get a lawyer and threaten lawsuits, despite also opposing trial lawyers and favoring tort reform to make it difficult for others to sue.

I hope you are as much a fan of irony as I am.