Austin : Thousands Rally for Healthcare; Teabaggers Call for Secession

Health care supporters, Teabaggers rally in Austin, August 29, 2009. Photos by James Retherford / The Rag Blog.

Healthcare rally draws over 2,000;
Handful of Teabaggers call for secession

Rev. Jim Rigby, pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, pondered how it can be considered Christian ‘to express concern about millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans,’ but Communist ‘to try to do something about it.’

By James Retherford / The Rag Blog / September 1, 2009

See more photos, Below.

Forty-eight-year-old Linda Flores (not her real name) arrived at Saturday afternoon’s downtown Austin healthcare reform rally in her nurse’s scrubs, looking for answers. Though she has worked eight years at a major international pharmaceutical research and development company, she has no health insurance.

Flores has heard the negative talk about Obama’s health care initiative, and, on top of that, she has her own nagging concerns about Big Government. She said that she enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but in recent months has had trouble supporting the direction of the Democrat-led government.

Asked why, she replied: “Timothy Geithner.”

Flores said she was there so that she could ask keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) — or anyone with real answers — what the proposed new health plan would take out of her already meager paycheck. She is very emotional. Her distress is misunderstood by others standing in line as Teabagger anger.

I asked her why she is so emotional about healthcare reform. The reason, she said, was that the hugely profitable healthcare corporation for whom she works not only provides no health insurance but also pays wages that were insufficient to afford for an alternative.

Because she earns less than 20,000 a year and is the sole provider for two school-age children, Linda has not seen a physician, had an annual check-up, or received a mammogram for the past four years.

“This is not right,” she said. “It’s not fair.”

Unlike Flores, nearly all of the 2,000-2,500 people who gathered for MoveOn.org’s healthcare rally and forum already were in support of healthcare reform. Their only question was how to get Congress to break the money-driven grip of the insurance industry and enact real change with a workable public option. Except for about four dozen Tea Party and Secessionist protesters gathered in the grassy median on 12th Street between Lavaca and Colorado streets near the church — and a handful of Teabaggers who unsuccessfully tried to disrupt the meeting inside the church — all supported reform.

Long before the 3 p.m. start time, supporters filled the 1,200 seats of the First United Methodist Church and overflowed hastily arranged space at the nearby AFL-CIO union hall and a Texas Trial Lawyers Association auditorium. Hundreds remained outside with signs and banners to face off against the slogan-shouting Teabaggers. Department of Public Safety officers kept the groups at yelling distance on opposite sides of the street.

Inside the church, a dozen speakers — politicians, doctors, civic and religious leaders, policy wonks, and citizens — cited facts and recounted personal stories about the failure of the American health care system. Rev. Jim Rigby, pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, pondered how it can be considered Christian “to express concern about millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans,” but Communist “to try to do something about it.”

Rep. Lloyd Doggett told the enthusiastic crowd that he left his horns at home. Photo by James Retherford / The Rag Blog.

Quipping that he left his horns at home this time, Rep. Doggett, who earlier this month was ambushed in South Austin by a right-wing mob carrying signs portraying the 25th District congressmen as the devil, declared that the confrontation only increased his resolve to pass meaningful healthcare legislation with a viable public option. Referring to belligerent healthcare reform foes, he added:

“To those we have heard today, and on other occasions, who shout ‘Just say no,’ who say ‘No way,’ who say ‘Never,’ who offer no solutions, I say to you Teabaggers, All you have to offer is some mighty weak tea.

To others concerned that legislation is moving too quickly, Doggett countered, “This bill is not moving too quickly. It’s 60 years too late.”

While health insurance companies are spending more than a million dollars a day “to defeat the public option,” Doggett observed that the U.S. has the “least efficient healthcare system in the world. We have a healthcare system where more people employed there are concerned about denying claims than actually being doctor and nurses and other professionals concerned with providing care.”

“What specifically can you do,” he told the audience. “Insist on a strong public plan and don’t accept any substitutes.”

The crowd stood and rocked the pews.

Elsewhere in the church, some of the wingnuts were attempting to find spots where they could disrupt the forum. One woman was removed by Travis County constables after she held up a sign opposing socialized medicine.

On an elevator just outside the sanctuary, a 52-year-old Mexican-American woman found herself alone with a red-faced angry-looking heavy-set 50ish white man wearing a straw hat and sunglasses. He looked at the women scornfully and declared, “I’m a Texan. What are you?”

Taken aback by the man’s antagonism, the woman replied, “So am I.”

The man spat back, “No, I am a real Texan!”

“And so am I,” the woman countered. “My ancestors fought for Texas independence. My great-great-great uncle fell with Fannin at Goliad.”

The woman was not aware that hours earlier 150-200 members of a far-right-wing secessionist fringe group calling itself the Texas Nationalist Movement had demonstrated at the Capitol, calling for a “bloody” new civil war.

Some of them stuck around to join the Teabaggers.

This uncomfortable encounter between a dark-skinned daughter of the Texas revolution and this pale-skinned nativist son of Texas provides an ironic glimpse into the multiple layers of contradiction surrounding the nativist fringe in general and the so-called Texas Nationalist Movement in particular.

First is the irony, obviously lost on the man in the elevator, that Texas won its independence from Mexico because Anglo settlers — from not only the U.S. but also other parts of the world — found common ground with Tejanos such as Seguín, the de León family, Benavides, the Carbajal brothers, and others. Some were Texas martyrs; all were Texas patriots — including several African-Texans.

But the biggest contradiction embedded in the Texas Nationalist Movement’s war cry of secession is this. Even if this racist fringe group somehow were to successfully break away from the federal government, they would find themselves in a new republic of Texas in which they are a shrinking racial minority. I don’t think this is what these people have in mind.

As the elevator door opened and the voice of state NAACP president Gary Bledsoe could be heard from the podium, the man in the straw hat spat on the floor and muttered, “Another goddamned nigger.”

Supporters for health care reform gather at First United Methodist Church in Austin Saturday — inside and out. Photos by James Retherford / The Rag Blog.

Secessionist rally at Texas State Capitol, Saturday, August 29, 2009. Photos from Texas Observer.

Also see “We Hate the United States”: Secessionists rally at Capitol while Perry stays home by Forrest Wilder (with Video) / The Texas Observer / August 29, 2009

The Rag Blog

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12 Responses to Austin : Thousands Rally for Healthcare; Teabaggers Call for Secession

  1. Anonymous says:

    Regardless of the outcome of this effort to reform healthcare, I will henceforth support Lloyd Doggett. He’s able to take the heat and keep on ‘cookin’

  2. Anne Lewis says:

    Great pictures Jim. It’s wonderful to see the TSEU banner. So frequently we labor folks get no respect. I’ve got a few somewhat strange and complex pictures to add if you’d like. Just let me know. Did you get a chance to look at the Ted Kennedy clips at appalshop.org?

  3. learner says:

    Great write-up, Jim!
    Thank you for pointing out the bigotry that is driving so many of the protesters. I am sad about this but the truth needs to be pointed out. These people want to return to a world that we rightly left,for ethical and humane reasons, back in the Sixties.

  4. dospesentas says:

    “take the heat and keep on ‘cookin'” YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! When Doggett faced a little heat at Randalls, he ran like a coward. Want to ask Doggett a real question on health care? Ask him why, year after year, he took ag-exemption on millions of dollars in Great Hills, city residential lots (where no agricultural activity existed, no livestock existed and that were deed restricted from any ag uses), to avoid paying local taxes used to pay for our local health care district. It took complaints to the Chief Appraiser to shut down this deplorable practice.

    Claims that healthcare reform opposition was phony, astroturf, minions of the insurance industry (a clam made by Dryer that he has yet to back up), bussed in, etc. were untrue. Now when the deck is really stacked (and easily demonstrated) by the AFL-CIO, MoveOn.org, Travis County Democrats and Doggett the it’s all o.k.

    Doggett and other liberals (as recently as last night on Countdown) attacked Bush for ‘screening’ his audiences, declaring the practice a ‘violation of free speech’. Now in a stellar example of hypocracy we have this phony, staged event in a pathetic attempt to show how the ‘people’ support healthcare reform using the exact same tactics. What has changed?

    The real tragedy is this meeting, this article and most others I have seen fail to address any specifics of health care reform. They, for the most part simply demonize, belittle and attack anyone who opposes the government and it’s plans to expand their control in our lives.

    I remember when the basic tenants of being a liberal were wanting less government in your life and being suspicious of ‘the man’. Now we have all the ‘neo-libs’ propagandizing what they think is ‘free stuff’ (which is a delusion) that they don’t even know the specifics of, shilling for ‘the man’. My, how the world has changed.

    In a glaring example of sophmoric, schoolyard, name calling, the ‘neo-libs’, stereotype, slur and de-humanize fellow citizens by relegating them as ‘birthers’ and ‘teabaggers’. BIGOTRY!! Funny, when this exact same biggoted, marginalizing mentality called people Ni—rs, W-t B-cks, etc. it was evil. Now, since it’s not a ‘protected’ minority under attack, such low blows are apparently acceptable in the ‘neo-lib’ lexicon. Funny, I haven’t heard anything biggoted from the anti reform folks – That claim is pathetic, let’s call names and ignore the fact we’re $11T in debt, $1.2T in the red for the current budget, borrowed to the hilt, facing huge budget shortfalls for existing government healthcare programs and ‘fight’ for MORE entitlement and MORE dependency on government (and taxpayers).

    Demand facts, think about the impact of the proposed reforms when you actually know what they are. This sort of propaganda is intended to lead you like sheeple – Obaaaama, Obaaaama.

    Wake up and think for yourselves, and don’t condone the disrespect this article and others show to your fellow citizens. Demand some real dialog and specifics, not attack pieces and propaganda pieces claiming how all the ‘other’ countries do it so much better, how bad the insurance industry is, etc.

    If health care (or insurance) reform is so necessary and a good thing, proponents should be able to demonstrate that without resorting to avoidance of the issue and spending an inordinant amount of time berating and attacking their opposition.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “how it can be considered Christian ‘to express concern about millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans,’ but Communist ‘to try to do something about it.'”

    What happened to separation of church and state? Is it now one and the same, driven by the same principles?

  6. Anonymous says:

    I actually heard local Ku Klux Klan members talking trash. Yes you heard correctly- you heard “RIGHT”-
    you know who you are. You will never disrupt or bomb a church or synagogue again.

    Hang yourselves with your hate and selfishness.

    It does not surprise me of the ignorance but it is the spirituality of some that the racists fear. That same mentality to keep business as usual is of the past.

    We accord you to return to your origin if you even know it.

  7. White Rose says:

    Dospesentas,

    “They, for the most part simply demonize, belittle and attack anyone who opposes the government and it’s plans to expand their control in our lives.”

    This is untrue! If they have been “attacked”, it is because of their ignorance about what is really in the House bill. They get the e-mails with misleading statements and out-right lies and get angry and indignant. I have discussed the house bill with people that oppose the bill and can’t believe how many still think it is going to be a completely run Government plan. They have no idea what is in the bill.

    “In a glaring example of sophmoric, schoolyard, name calling, the ‘neo-libs’, stereotype, slur and de-humanize fellow citizens by relegating them as ‘birthers’ and ‘teabaggers’.”

    Umm… I believe you call yourselves teabaggers (giggle) and birthers. The so-called neo-left didn’t give you those names.

    “Demand some real dialog and specifics, not attack pieces and propaganda pieces claiming how all the ‘other’ countries do it so much better, how bad the insurance industry is, etc.”

    Okay no problem, if you can stop shouting and screaming at the town hall meetings, maybe we can have some real discussions about health care reform and address real concerns.

  8. dospesentas says:

    White Rose:

    Strange, I don’t hear the attacks centering on ignorance of the proposals. They’re blanket attacks to marginalize and discredit.

    Your stereotyping is invalid. Varying degrees of knowledge (and ignorance) exist on BOTH sides. False information is also not the exclusive domain of either side. The curious thing and one of my central points is; little discussion of specifics is occurring. Factual discussion is replaced by attacks, name calling and propaganda. Look at the articles on this blog – you’ll get the idea.

    You’re blatantly incorrect on the ‘teabagger’ and ‘birther’ slurs. I’m not a party to either camp, but know slurs when I hear them. If these same slurs and tactics were racist, you wouldn’t defend them. ‘tea party’ is an anacronym for Taxed Enough Already – with the ‘party’ thing coming from the historical Boston tax revolt. ‘Teabagger’ is a term for a person who sucks testicles. I seriously doubt they adopted that label themselves – do you seriously make that claim?

    All those against ‘reform’ are not ignorant and shouting. There’s plenty of shouting and screaming by both sides. You want to blame one group simply to discredit them.

    Many valid concerns exist that should be addressed – they’re lost in petty arguments like this one. Since you attack those without specific knowledge and no one is shouting here, I’ll give you an opportunity to display your knowledge. Lets start with five specific issues:

    In HR3200: 1)Sec. 152 appears to facilitate coverage for illegal aliens, 2) Sec. 164 absolves union liability for their retirees shifting it to the public, 3) Sec. 205 empowers and funds outside enrollment entities (i.e. ACORN), 4) Sec. 431 empowers the ‘healthcare bureaucracy’ to have access to individuals personal financial records and 5) Sec. 1173A sets up provision for a national I.D. card. Got any problem with any of this?

  9. richard jehn says:

    Not surprisingly, (a lot less than) Two-Cents, you are perfectly willing to misrepresent the facts to make your point. Nothing in HR3200 will “facilitate coverage for illegal aliens,” an oft repeated myth. Why don’t you direct people to one good source of information or another instead of spreading the perpetual falsehoods of the reactionary, fear-mongering right wing? Your contributions to this blog are just as grossly counterproductive as Mr. Overly Processed Pig’s are.

  10. dospesentas says:

    I didn’t misrepresent anything. I offered discussion on five aspects of the resolution and reasonable interpretation. True to form Jenny ignores the issues and attacks me (and others). Is he completely incapable of anything but attack mode, based on derivative opinion? Instead of regurgitating ‘talking points’ from like minded echo chambers, Jenny should look at the actual legislation, and use his own brain to draw his own conclusion. DO YOUR OWN THINKING JENNY!

    Since Jenny appears unable to respond with fact based counter logic, I’ll assume ignorance of the specifics. Here’s a link, not to his biased ‘pro reform’ opinion websites, but to the actual legislation: http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_111/20090714/aahca.pdf

    Regarding Jenny’s claim Section 152, which I stated: “APPEARS to facilitate coverage for illegal aliens”, which he terms; “an oft repeated myth” and “perpetual falsehoods of the reactionary, fear-mongering right wing”. Sounds real good, ouch! Except it doesn’t address the issue and only attacks the messenger. Let me school ya’ Jenny: The section specifically states: “all health care and related services (including insurance coverage and public health activities) covered by this Act are provided (whether directly or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements) without regard to personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services.” Note the part: “provided without regard to personal characteristics”. “Personal characteristics” can be legally construed as the parties immigration status. Now I ask Jenny (since he now has a link to the legislation) to show me where there is a contrary section or clause that prohibits extension of health care/related services to resident non-citizens. That would be a factual rebuttal, unlike his judgmental name calling, off topic labeling, and side trips to biased ‘opinion’ websites for his supposed “good source of information”.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Jehn makes a claim, to remain credible, he must back it up with reference to the actual legislation, as dospesentas did. Absent that, Jehn, who seems to only offer opinion, is the one guilty of counterproductivity.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Where is there any provision in the legislation to verify citizenship? Why have the Democrat controlled committees refused to insert specific language addressing illegal alien access to benefits?

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