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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Anti- and pro-Obama activists clash in Raleigh

Posted by on Thu, Jul 9, 2009 at 3:02 PM

click to enlarge Photo by Jaymes Powell
  • Photo by Jaymes Powell

Jaymes Powell reports for the Indy about a clash in Raleigh between pro-Obama and anti-Obama activists. 

Dozens of protesters, arguing everything from President Obama’s health care plan to even race, verbally clashed outside of the United States Federal Courthouse in Downtown Raleigh Thursday afternoon and were separated by city police.

The liberal group MoveOn.org organized the rally and had about 30 demonstrators cheering on universal health care. A group of about 40 conservatives, some saying they were organized by the Wake County Republican Party, counter-protested, carrying signs, chanting and receiving a large number of approving car honks.

At one point, the two groups began yelling at each other while massed directly in front of the courthouse and Raleigh police separated the two groups.

“The watch commander said there were opposing viewpoints,” police spokesman Jim Sughrue said, adding that there were no arrest and that police breaking-up the arguing groups, “helped insure the disagreement didn’t escalate. And both groups still had an opportunity to get their point across.”

The conservative group then began to sing “America The Beautiful.”

The liberal group, now on the West side of the building and separated by about eight officers, began singing the same song as agitation on both sides continued to mount.

Larry Larrison, 66 of Clayton, shouted at one woman in the liberal group.“Why don’t you get a job and pay for health care,” Larrison, a Vietnam veteran screamed.

Minutes later, as some of the liberal protesters left, walking East through the group of conservatives, universal health care proponent Cheryl D. Moon of Knightdale bumped the sign of conservative protester Larry Herwig, 61 of Washington, N.C., with her fist.

After being alerted by the conservative protesters, police briefly detained Moon, but Herwig declined to take  further action, he said.

“I didn’t want to get down to their level,” said Herwig, another Vietnam vet. “With what I have to deal with at the [Veterans Administration] to get treatment is terrible. That’s what government health care is going to be.”

Shahzeel Sarfraz, the 20 year-old UNC student and organizer of the event, approached Herwig and apologized for his supporter’s behavior, saying “There’s no place for that.”

Herwig, who initially refused to shake Sarfraz’s outreached hand, and others said that Congress should take its time on health care legislation. “Don’t try and rush it through with nobody reading it,” Herwig said, after speaking with and shaking Sarfarz’s hand. “There’s too much at stake.”

Sarfraz countered that everyone needs health care, but was hesitant to defend all of the President’s plan, admitting he didn’t know all of it and that there was still work to be done.

Sarfraz pointed out that there was waste in private health care, now. A case Herwig partially agreed with.

But after hearing a story about a laid-off Wall Street investment banker with AIDS, who went to Duke University, and now has no savings or health provider, Herwig agreed with Sarfraz that everyone should be entitled to care, but a different system would be needed.

Both sides also agreed that there was little room for compromise. It was left or right.

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