Tea partiers protest outside Dems convention in Fargo
Tea party activists from North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota protested health care reform, government spending, immigration and other issues Saturday in a rally outside the Fargo Civic Center, site of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party con...
Tea party activists from North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota protested health care reform, government spending, immigration and other issues Saturday in a rally outside the Fargo Civic Center, site of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party convention.
More than 100 people gathered in a light sleet and near-freezing temperatures by the Ten Commandments monument, holding American flags and signs that read "We don't want Obama Care," "They're Not Listening," "Obama Lies, Granddaddy dies" and "Bye Bye Obamaroy."
"To me, they stepped on that Constitution last week" when they voted for the health care bill, said Ross Ueckert of Beach, N.D. "They voted it in, and that makes me angry."
Fargo radio talk-show host Scott Hennen emceed the event, castigating the North Dakota congressional delegation for not holding town hall meetings and for not appearing at the rally.
"Come on out and join the party," Hennen urged Democratic conventioneers, looking on from inside the Civic.
"The Democratic Party can meet in a phone booth," he added, drawing chuckles.
"They tell us this is going to make our health care better," said conservative blogger Rob Port of Minot, N.D. "Yet they can't even run the Post Office."
At least five Fargo police officers were visible on duty as extra security for the convention during the rally, which was peaceful.
Bruce Thimmig of Fargo said he and other tea party followers were ordinary people speaking out.
"They're not the elites or the office holders," he said. "Politically, it would be wise to listen."
Thimmig said he was unhappy with taxation and the erosion of personal freedoms.
"I don't feel like people have any privacy anymore," he said.
Lianne Zeltinger of Minot started protesting two weeks ago in Bismarck.
The 60-year-old held up a sign directed at North Dakota's U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, reading, "Earl, even you can smell a dead rat. Health Reform. And U didn't bury it."
"I believe in individual freedom. I'm not an extremist," she said. "I see this country going down the tubes."
Carl Hedman of Ellendale, N.D., carried a broom to "sweep 'em out" of office, he said of the Democratic congressional incumbents.
"They looked me in the face and said they would not support abortion, and then they voted for it," Hedman said.
J.D. Donaghe of Kenmare, N.D., a musician and political candidate, said he'd talked with reporters earlier.
"(The media) wanted to know if we were going to get violent, if we were going to go in there with our pitchforks and stuff and take over," he said. "I made it clear to them that the Democratic voters in that convention are not our enemies. We're not here to protest them. They're our fellow citizens. It's the Democratic leadership in there that's leading them astray - the same way they're leading us astray - that we're here to protest.
"The Bible says when the blind lead the blind, they all fall in the ditch," Donaghe added, drawing laughs.
Meredith Pickett, communications director for the Democratic-NPL Party, said the protesters had a right to their opinions.
"But we have hundreds of people inside who are supporting our delegation, because our delegation supports North Dakotans.
"We know that the health care bill is the right thing to do. Doctors, nurses, hospital associations, the AARP, they all support the delegation as well," she said. "We had a real good celebration of our delegation's historic vote, and we're really excited."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583