That's not necessarily a good thing.
Around the country, union officials report receiving "a barrage of threats" after AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called upon labor unions to participate in the town hall meetings traditionally held by members of Congress during the August recess. According to an article on Huffington Post Thursday, Sweeney "makes clear that Obama allies view the town hall forums as ground zero of the health care debate."
Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, has scheduled 17 listening sessions in this Congressional District between Aug. 24 and Aug. 31, including three in Racine County on Thursday, Aug. 27: at 9:45 a.m. at Rochester Municipal Hall; at 11:15 at Sturtevant Village Hall; and at 1:30 in Racine, in the Great Lakes Room at Gateway Technical College. (Complete list here.)
That last listening session -- the one in Racine -- is featured prominently in a follow-up article on Huffington Post Saturday, and not in a good way. Union officials say the threats they've received "are punctuated by warnings that if organizers were sent to counter-demonstrate at health care town halls, they would be met with violence."
An official with the Service Employees International Union said she had received 50 threatening emails, including the following one, supposedly from a Marine, about Racine's session. (It's been cleaned up for publication.):
You socialist f---s have the nerve to say stop the violence at the town hall meetings when they weren't violent until you p---ies showed up because your n----- leader obama said to?????? When we have ours in Racine, Wi, I want you there. I want one of your little b----- to put his hands on this Marine. I want one of you to look or talk to me wrong. I'll be the last thing your ignorant faux body guards will remember for a very long time. You can f---ing guarantee that.Huffington Post has roughly 5 million readers, so the Racine threat is getting wide exposure, even before it is picked up by other sites like ours, and this one in Lake County (where the first response says, "the e-mail most likely was made up. Just more liberal BS.")
The unions say they are planning to attend Congressional town hall meetings "to balance out anti-Obama demonstrations being waged at local Democratic forums."
Local Democrats are concerned about the threat. One I spoke to -- who wished to remain anonymous to avoid attracting the threatener's attention -- said, "Oh, great; the most profane threat comes against us in Racine. I don't think I'm a wildly cautious person, but this sort of thing makes me nervous, makes me afraid that it's not particularly safe. In Wisconsin we're friendly. Here, particularly in Racine, we're capable of having calm reasonable conversations. I don't understand this anger."
Meanwhile, at the other end of the political spectrum, another group is also concerned about the town hall meetings, and plans to attend -- to balance out Democrats. We found a website called the 912 Patriots of Southeast Wisconsin.
Karl Heinitz posted Friday: "Paul Ryan's new listening tour dates are out. Let us go and give him and Obama's Squadristi something to listen to. His health care plan is pretty good, so why can't he get it into the hands of a single bluedog? Does he not read the bills or wisely reject large things shoved in his face at 3 a.m.? I would also suggest we not be seen as any kind of organized effort. You know how huffy the fascists and reds get when somebody uses their own tactics against them."
Site organizer Raydene Edenhofer, wrote Saturday, "We need to have video of our participation in town halls as well as rallies. We need to make sure that everyone can see who is really disrupting these events, and how our elected officials are ignoring the people they are supposed to be representing. They say you fight fire with fire... Obama and his minions fired the first shots... we are merely returning fire... like any school yard bully... they don't like being stood up to. Well... let's keep rallying and show them just who they are up against. Americans don't run from a battle or from a challenge. We the People needs to mean something!"
The site, for "Kenosha/Racine Constitutional Patriots," says it grew out of principles introduced by TV and radio host Glenn Beck; it is also the Southeast Wisconsin Glenn Beck Meetup Group. Beck is the broadcaster who recently accused President Obama of being "a racist."