"The spectacle at the Children's Board in Ybor City sounded more like a wrestling cage match than a panel discussion on national policy," explains today's St. Petersburg Times, describing the scene at a health-care town hall organized for Representative Kathy Castor (Democrat, Tampa). The overfull meeting was filled with angry voters on both sides of the issue, but it was protesters outside who chanted loudest, did their best to interrupt the proceedings, and eventually got violent. The impromptu ralliers arrived on the scene after being urged on by activist group Tampa 912 (which is promoted, according to the paper, by Glenn Beck), the local Republican Party, which sent out talking points, and Rush Limbaugh, who mentioned the town hall on his show. "Obama has mobilized union thugs to go out and also attend these town meetings to intimidate the genuine citizens out there who are upset about [his health-care initiative]," Limbaugh said on the radio. "Paid activists are going to be showing up. And that's why — so the Democrats are going to get brave now. They're going to have protection there. The mob's showing up. The real, genuine mob is showing up to defend these Democrats from the unruly Nazis that are showing up to protest the health care bill."
Democrats in favor of the health-care bill will likely use this as an example today in their increasingly aggressive counterattacks against their foes. Expect to hear the term "astroturf" more and more to describe these sorts of unruly "grassroots" protests. A senseless, hysterical protest that turns violent is exactly the type of evidence the White House needs to paint their opponents as reactionaries organized by well-funded anti-reform groups who are only interested in sensational YouTube phenomena and not reasonable dialogue.
Meanwhile, did anybody see the CEO of AstroTurf on Fox News complaining about liberals using his brand to describe these protests? Dude, this is amazing free publicity. This is the most relevant a synthetic grass product has been since soap operas gave up on filming "outdoor scenes"!
Protesters in Ybor City drown out health care summit on Obama's proposal [St. Petersburg Times]
Update: Six people were arrested in a similar flare-up outside of a town hall in St. Louis, where a forum on aging turned violent after a local Tea Party group organized a protest on health care.