Where the healthcare reformers are failing…badly

aroli was talking about an incident in her neighborhood via Twitter that I later found out to have been at a Healthcare reform protest put on by MoveOn. Karoli recounts the pro-reformer’s side of the event, and there seems to be any number of people wanting to jump on that particular wagon. I’m not one of them.

The facts, if I understand them correctly, are that a group of about 150 pro-reform protestors showed up for a rally, and a much smaller anti-reform group formed across the street. Everything should have been fine if this state had been maintained. The worst that could happen is people going hoarse yelling at each other.

It didn’t remain the same though. Karoli writes that the anti-reform protestors were blocking access to the protest side, but her photo shows no one was blocked, and the anti-reform protest was too small to physically block anyone’s access to the cross walk. More importantly, the anti-reform people stayed on their side of the street. It was the pro-reform person who started this brouhaha, because they were the ones to cross the street, effectively busting into the other side’s territory. In Karoli’s words:

Several minutes later, there was another altercation. My best recollection is that this man saw what happened to the woman and reacted to it. I cannot say with certainty where he was when he saw it — he may have arrived and was navigating his way through that group, or he may have crossed the street to defend her. He was confronted by the same man. I could tell from where I was that the man was belligerent, angry, and confrontational.

The man in the orange shirt hit the pro-reform guy (I’m going to call him PR Guy just to keep the players straight). Hard. ( tweeted in real time) He punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and into that thruway. As you can see from the photo, cars drive straight through that without stopping. The pro-reform guy could have been run over. He got up, tried to get back up on the curb, but Orange Shirt guy was in his face. Finger in his face, PR Guy standing, steps up to the curb, and there’s a scuffle. Orange shirt seemed to have PR Guy in a hold, but again, I was across the street, so won’t state that as absolute fact. Next thing I see is PR Guy’s hat being tossed into the street, both yelling at one another, then Orange shirt walks away, PR Guy picks up hat and crosses to our side.

When he gets to our side, he tells a story in one sentence: “He punched me hard, straight in the face, so I bit his finger off.”

The woman that Karoli references was someone handing out flyers, who went across the street for some reason. Supposedly while on the other side of the street the man in the orange shirt, whose finger was later bit off, shooed her back across the street, doing so in what Karoli calls an aggressive manner.

Fine. Dandy. If the woman felt threatened, she should have called the police. However, if the woman was across the street trying to hand out flyers to these people, which my spider sense tells me could have been a very real possibility, then it’s not surprising she triggered an angry response. You don’t bait people when emotions are high.

Regardless of why she was on the other side, the woman crossed back and she was in no danger. It was inappropriate for any other pro-reform protestor to cross back over, regardless of reason. This put the pro-reform movement squarely into acting as the aggressor in this event.

Regardless of who did what, the pro-reform movement was in the wrong. Worse, they allowed themselves to be set up in such a way that it could potentially help discredit what they’re supposedly protesting for.

I have to wonder what’s more important to the pro-reform movement at this time: the healthcare reform? Or the healthcare reform protests? Because from my seat, the latter has real potential to hurt the former, if more incidents like this occur.


update More information on the incident. It sounds like this was more of an altercation that came about because Code Pink also attended the protest. Why Code Pink felt they had to be there is anyone’s guess.

last update Corrections: the person who lost part of his finger was the first to actually cross the street and confront a pro-reform protestor, before crossing back over to his side. He was the man wearing Khaki, not the orange shirt guy. He also threw two punches at the guy who bit him, not one. The police are not actively looking for the guy who did the biting, probably because Khaki was the one to throw the first punch.

Frankly, no one was an innocent bystander in this. Time to move on to what really matters: healthcare reform.