By John Heckenlively
Around 1,000 people gathered outside the grounds of Maier Festival Park Saturday to demonstrate that there are two sides to the health care debate – and that the side favoring the Public Option and health care reform is larger than the opposition.
“The media machine is feeding the idea that the only people at town hall meetings are opponents of health care reform,” declared Jeremy Bird, deputy director for Organizing for America. “In reality, the vast majority of people who attend want health care reform.”
Bird, who was in Racine last week to meet with local activists, noted the organization, which evolved for the 2008 Obama campaign, has held over 2,500 rallies over the last several months – covering every congressional district in the nation. Organizers gathered thousands of signatures in Wisconsin in recent weeks, which were displayed during the rally. Diana Kovics, a Racinian from Community for Change, presented 2,239 signatures for Congressman Paul Ryan, R-WI,1st District, who opposes Obama's proposal.
The rally opened with the crowd remembering Sen. Edward Kennedy, who was being buried as the rally took place. Several Milwaukee activists told of the burdens of taking care of family members without access to medical treatment due to costs.
Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton warned of the fear tactics being used by opponents of reform, including the latest rumor that “people who were registered as Republicans would be denied health care by Democratic health care czars.”
The rally closed with a fiery speech by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee). She called on the crowd to pass health care in memory of Kennedy, saying he had passed on the baton. Moore also noted that no matter what issue one was concerned about, whether it was women’s rights, the environment or economic justice, passing health care reform was important to that cause.