Although it was difficult beforehand to determine who the sponsor was, it was clear last night that this was the work of President Obama’s Organizing for America. How do I know this? Because for the first time, I was denied media access and the person that denied it was the Regional Field Director for OFA, Resha Thomas. Interestingly, she didn’t have a problem with me at first, having me sign in and allowing complete access. But then HPD Officer E.O. Williams decided, on his own, that only “invited” media could go behind the stage barriers. I have no idea why he decided to do this but speculate that perhaps he wanted to strut in front of her and display a little power. I wasn’t in the mood to protest at the time but might file a complaint against Officer Williams later. In this photo, Officer Williams is on the left with Ada Edwards in the center.
In addition to OFA’s presence, there were several other traditional leftist groups sponsoring the event. The SEIU had two of their people at each entrance to the park area. ACORN had a large presence, you can see them in the photos wearing their traditional red t-shirts. Planned Parenthood of Houston actively promoted it and had a large presence, represented by Larissa Lindsay. Lest anyone think that Resha Thomas and OFA were not in charge though, Ms. Lindsay would not answer any questions and directed me to Ms. Thomas.
There were three buses that arrived between 5:45 and 6:30 pm. I think that ACORN paid for them but was never able to nail that down for certain, although I did try. Two people from the buses told me it was ACORN but a third person told me, in very broken English, that his job sent him there. He identified himself only as Rodrigo and was carrying a SEIU sign. I asked him if he was getting paid and he said yes. I also asked him where he worked, he said at a hotel but wouldn’t tell me the name. But regardless of who actually paid for the buses or was paying his salary, the fact is that a large portion of the supporters at this rally were provided transportation, given t-shirts and signs, and paid to be there.
This is a video of the second ACORN/SEIU bus unloading its cargo of paid protesters. I think it is pretty funny about a minute into it when someone from the podium started shouting NOW! and the bus riders hear it. Watch them try to break through the traffic to attend. And in the background, a woman walks with them and shouts Hell No!
There wasn’t much to the actual rally. Former Houston City Council member Ada Edwards was at the mike a lot, saying that now is the time for health care. State Rep. Garnett Coleman also made an appearance at the mike. Speaker after speaker went up and talked about now is the time for health care reform. But this crowd wasn’t talking about reform, they want single payer because they think all health care should be free.
I spoke to one guy that talked about having to spend $30,000 two years ago when his mother had a heart attack. If only she’d been two years older, he said, she would have gotten care for free. That is typical of the response I got from everyone I talked to. When I asked why it should be free, the responses were along the lines of we are a rich country, rich people shouldn’t be the only ones with health care, we shouldn’t spend money on war, the Bible says to care for your neighbor, health care is a right, and so on.
There was also a counter protest of sorts. They were outnumbered 5 to 1 or thereabouts but made their presence felt. Tom and Paula Bazan were there when I arrived at 5:00 pm and had a choice spot. Unfortunately, HPD Sgt. Schaudel forced them to move to the other side, citing a 1941 Supreme Court ruling in Cox v. New Hampshire. I’m not sure how that applies to where a person can stand at a rally but Sgt. Schaubel convinced Tom and Paula to move. No matter, they still got the best place to stand, still up front and center but on the other side of the podium.
Candidate for U.S. House District 18 John Faulk was also there. Whatever you think of Mr. Faulk, and I’ve been pretty hard on him in the past, he is working very hard. He’s at every town hall, every rally, every breakfast, every everything, in his quest to defeat Rep. Shiela Jackson Lee. He’s growing on me because of that and the fact that he knows the issues. When I first met him, my impression was that he was nothing more than a border watching blowhard but that was simply a false impression based upon his attempt to get his name out there. Nice work, Mr. Faulk.
Alongside Mr. Faulk was an anti-abortion group, the Coalition for Life. They had a good turnout, 50 or so people singing and praying while the rally went on. They are very concerned about any reform bill paying for abortions and also about the current Planned Parenthood of Houston building going up, which is being billed as the largest abortion clinic in the world.
All in all, an interesting excercise in democracy and how our system works. Click here to see more photos from the rally.
UPDATE: Kevin Whited from blogHOUSTON.net sends further proof that this event was indeed an Organizing for America sponsored rally. This is a copy of an email that OFA sent out in support of the event.
With just days remaining before Congress returns to D.C. to tackle health insurance reform, we’re organizing our biggest push yet to show local support for change — our “Health Insurance Reform Now: Let’s Get It Done!” events.
There are thousands of gatherings across the country, and the event this Thursday in Houston could be one of the best. I hope you can be there as we hear from local leaders and present the thousands of declarations of support for reform that we’ve been collecting in Texas for months.
Don’t miss this critical event — click here to RSVP today. Here are the details:What: Health Insurance Reform Now Event
Where: Steps of Houston City Hall & Reflecting Pool
900 Smith St.
Houston, TX 77002
When: Thursday, September 3rd
Every person who shows up to this event — and each friend they bring — makes an enormous statement about the depth of local passion for reform.
Please join us:
Texas State Director
Organizing for America
P.S. — Before the event, please print off a flyer to display and make sure that your support is visible.