The debate over President Barack Obama's universal health-care bill turned nasty this week when town meetings became chaotic. One in particular sparked an online debate after footage aired by news networks showed an African American woman being escorted out by police apparently disrupting the event. Images filmed from another angle and posted online by a blogger, however, proved that the story was not what it seemed.
Obama's controversial health bill is facing both public outcry and impassioned enthusiasm from respective opponents and supporters. Supposed to allow the public to air their views, town hall meetings set up across the country over the past week seem to have only worsened the situation after various senators were faced with furious outbursts and religious threats from angry opponents. One man turned up with a rifle strapped to his leg and a poster which read "It's time to water the tree of liberty" — a Thomas Jefferson phrase which is often used by white supremacists. Hoards of people tried to get into the meetings, but in most cases there was not enough room for everybody, leaving angry crowds outside waving the popular Obama "joker" poster and threatening that they'd rather die than see the "Marxist Jihad" scheme come into effect.
Elsewhere, tearful backers told stories of victims of the current system in an attempt to convince their senators to push on with the bill. One of these supporters is the now highly debated "angry black woman" who is featured in the following video, filmed at a town meeting in Missouri held by Senator Claire McCaskill and aired by various news networks on Monday.
This is the only video of what actually happened at the event this afternoon. The news only showed the woman being escorted away by the police. What happened was that four women walked in with signs, the crowd booed and yelled at the women. The women rolled up their posters and put them down. A photographer/reporter approached one of the women and wanted to see what the poster was. As the woman went to show the photographer/reporter, a man from the bleachers stood up and snatched the poster from the woman and photographer/reporter. As the woman went to retrieve her poster, the police stepped in and escorted the woman and the man from the building.
The poster was not of Obama, it was not pro-health care. The poster that was taken from the woman and wrinkled up into a ball was of [African-American civil rights campaigner] Rosa Parks.
I do think that this is a race issue, because nobody said anything to the three white people holding "Don't tread on me" banners [see image below]. There's no doubt that there are serious racial undertones with the people who are anti-health care. They try to play it down but essentially many of them have a problem with having a black president, not with health care. And that's why as soon as I saw these four black women walk into the room with their Rosa Parks posters, I was sure something was going to happen.
The worst is that despite having eight cameras in the room at the time, the news channels chose to show only one part of the incident, which was a story about an acceptable stereotype in American news — an "angry black woman". While CNN went back and corrected the story after they saw my video, I don't think any other channels did.
Another blogger who attended the event, Michael Bersin, backed up Peter's account and posted the following photos:
The poster displayed on entry to the hall.
The woman being escorted out by police.
After the incident, some signs still remain in the hall: "Don't Tread on Me" (anti-health plan).
Read Michael's account of the incident here.