An angry mob of protesters disrupted a health care forum today in Tampa, FL, which was attended by state Rep. Betty Reed (D) and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D). More than 1,000 people showed up for the event, which was being held in a venue meant for just 250 people. As a result, “a large crowd gathered outside, and tensions were high among people who couldn’t get in.” From a report by the Tampa CBS affiliate:
As the building filled to capacity, angry protesters stuck outside began to scream, yell, and chant. At one point, those trying to get inside began banging on windows as Tampa Police officers quickly spread out guarding all entrances.
10 Connects photojournalist Kevin Carlson, currently inside the meeting reports at least one fist fight breaking out inside.
Castor reportedly “left the meeting early, saying she couldn’t be heard above all the shouting inside the meeting.” When police “on bullhorns” tried to send the crowd home, many refused to leave. Additionally, some protesters’ signs “bore an image of Obama with his face painted as the Joker, an image that drew protests of racism locally when it appeared on a Web site thought to be associated with the Pinellas Republican party.”
Watch an on-scene report from the local Fox affiliate:
So how did all these protesters find out about the town hall meeting? According to the St. Petersburg Times, many of them heard about it from Fox News host Glenn Beck’s 912 project and the local Republican party:
Instead, hundreds of vocal critics turned out, many of them saying they had been spurred on through the Tampa 912 activist group promoted by conservative radio and television personality Glenn Beck. Others had received e-mails from the Hillsborough Republican party that urged people to speak out against the plan and offered talking points to challenge supporters.
Beck has been a heavy influence on these “grassroots” tea parties and protests. In April, ThinkProgress spoke to attendees protesting outside the White House, and many of them said that they had heard about the event through Beck’s 912 Project.