Groups Step Up Response to Town-Hall Protests

Posted August 5, 2009 at 2:22pm

Updated: 4:32 p.m.

Democratic Members may not have a plan for combating protesters at their town-hall meetings on health care, but outside groups are coming to help with their own army of pro-health-care-reform troops to disrupt the disrupters.

Organizing for America, the grass-roots arm of the Democratic National Committee, is tapping into its database of 13 million e-mail addresses to urge supporters to attend local health care events to make sure protesters are outnumbered.

The OFA e-mailed supporters on Tuesday to urge their attendance at a rally in Detroit where Vice President Joseph Biden was set to talk about health care reform. The e-mail urges supporters to show up to counter the “organized mobs— expected to try to disrupt the event.

President Barack Obama and Biden are “under attack by Washington insiders, insurance companies, and well-financed special interests who don’t go a day without spreading lies and stirring up fear. We need to show that we’re sick and tired of the fear mongering,— reads the e-mail.

An OFA spokesperson said the group is planning to dispatch supporters to Democratic Members’ rallies, too.

“To be clear, though, we are asking folks to stand with Members who are trying to have a constructive dialogue about how to make health insurance reform a reality. This is very different than what Republicans and their allies are instructing folks to do: shout down voices of reform or people asking questions,— said the spokesperson.

Senate Democrats plan on calling in reinforcements for town halls with the OFA’shelp, according to one senior Senate Democratic aide. “We have a realgrass-roots organization, and we’re going to use them,— the aide said.

A Democratic Party source said party officials and Senate leaders are tryingto coordinate their efforts. “We are going to encourage people to attendtown halls to show their support for Members. And yes, we are coordinatingwith leadership,— this source said.

In another e-mail sent Wednesday, the OFA announced that it is putting together thousands of events for people to reach out to their Members of Congress and show their support for health care reform.

The message, signed by Obama, asks supporters to commit to at least one event this month in his or her community.

“These canvasses, town halls and gatherings only make a difference if you turn up to knock on doors, share your views, and show your support,— Obama says.

Another grass-roots group, Health Care for America Now, is distributing a strategy document that advises supporters of health care reform on how to respond to disruptions at events.

The memo suggests not debating protesters on policy points since their aim is to “distort the truth.— Instead, supporters are encouraged to interrupt protesters with statements like, “Excuse me, I came today to listen to Representative XXX explain how this bill is going to make health care more affordable for me and my family.—

Other suggested tactics include not shouting back at protesters, addressing lawmakers with a positive message since they “need cover and they are getting beaten up by right wing zealots,— and drowning out protesters with chants like, “Health care can’t wait!—