The space just outside the Supreme Court morphed into a figurative battlefield this afternoon as Tea Party forces rallied and confronted Obamacare supporters with screams, personal attacks and provocative signs.
The loudest argument erupted in the middle of the de facto no-man’s land that had formed between tea partiers and a group of Obama supporters, far fewer than had been present at organized demonstrations this morning.
One verbal altercation was between Steve Bauer, a retired limo driver from New Jersey who brandished a sign that depicted President Obama as the Joker and labeled him “Dr. Barack Kevorkian,” and Earl Ingram, a talk radio host from Milwaukee.
As they tangoed, tea partiers and Obamacare supporters all around them chanted and yelled at one another, making it impossible to hear anyone more than three feet away. The scene was drastically different from that of the morning, when Obamacare supporters sang in an orderly march, drowning out their conservative counterparts.
This time the attacks were personal — on both sides.
“You don’t know what patriotic is,” Ingram told Bauer.
“I’m patriotic!” Bauer yelled back before starting a point about the Constitution.
Ingram cut him off. “Don’t tell me about the Constitution!” he roared. “He’s not your president. He’s the president of all of us.”
It didn’t all quite make total sense, but it was hardly unique for the afternoon.
Just a few paces away from Bauer and Ingram, a man and a woman (who didn’t give their names) were arguing over the same principles. “He’s got a big mouth and he’s not qualified for the job,” the man said of Obama before spotting this reporter and asking: “What are you writing? Walk away.”
“We’re not trying to start a fight,” the woman replied. “We’re trying to start a conversation.”
Behind them, a young woman grabbed a megaphone being used by an anti-abortion activist to scream into it, “It’s a law against ugly women!”
Fifteen feet to the right, a half-dozen pro-Obama demonstrators directed signs in support of the president’s health at Tea Party protesters who were standing a few yards away. A male protester hurled a comment about birth control at the Obama supporters.
“Unless you actually have a vagina, don’t go there, OK?” 30-year-old Fatma Hocaoglu screamed back.
Another man who refused to be identified joined the fray. “I don’t want to pay for her abortion!” he blared. “With Obamacare, we do. Yes, we do.”
A few minutes later, an Obamacare supporter and foe who were screaming at each other about their medical conditions broke the ranks to show each other their insurance cards.
The supporter, Barbara Stakes, a retiree from Pennsylvania with a seizure disorder classified as a “pre-existing condition,” explained that she had been turned down for health coverage.
“I pay for this,” she said. “I was rejected.”
Danny Mullaney, a former home-improvement contractor from Baltimore, replied by saying that he has cancer and won’t be able to get it treated under Obamacare.
“They’re going to kick me off,” he insisted. “They’re going to ration.”
Not that there weren’t scenes of harmony. As an organized Tea Party rally began to start, the animated activists stopped yelling and sang the national anthem.
So was Conner Beagle, a 10-year-old from Indiana whose mom brought him to Washington to witness the health care debate.
“In 20 years, I’ll remember this,” Conner said as his mom, Gina Lemasters, who works for the anti-Obamacare National Federation of Independent Business in Rep. Mike Pence’s district, shot video of him on her phone. “The health bill — it’s history.”