Hundreds rally against health-care reform, Obama visit

BY JOSEPH BELK | MARCH 25, 2010 7:30 AM

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Hundreds settled on the Pentacrest Wednesday night to protest President Obama’s visit to Iowa City today to tout health-care reform.

Locals held up signs that read “God Forgive Obama, God Bless America,” and “Save Capitalism.” Many held small American flags, while others sported umbrellas.

Norma Halverson drove four hours from her home in Laurens, Iowa, for the rally. The 62-year-old said she attended town-hall meetings with Republican officials and wanted to express her opposition to the bill.

When the bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Sunday night, Halverson said, she “felt like crying.”

“Why is he coming here to talk about health care?” she asked. “It’s already been passed.”

White House officials announced earlier this week that Obama would speak in Iowa City at 1 p.m. today in the Field House.

UI College Republicans leaders began organizing the rally Monday night, chairwoman Natalie Ginty said.

Republican Congressional candidates and state Republican party officials spoke throughout the event, often drawing cheers and applause from the crowd.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., spoke to the crowd through Skype on a projection screen.

“We will repeal Obamacare, and we will give the American people and Congress what they deserve,” Pence said.

Matt Strawn, the chairman of the state Republican Party, said officials worked with the UI College Republicans to organize the event.

The purpose was “to let President Obama know that not all Iowans agree with his agenda that spends more money than this nation takes in,” Strawn said.

Guest speakers included Republican candidates for U.S. Congress and Brenna Findley, the Republican nominee for the state attorney general.

Organizers said they were pleased with the turnout at the rally.

“I expected to get here and be one of 15 or 20 people,” said Erik Edens, a University of Iowa clinical associate professor of cardiology. “I don’t know how many people were here, but it looked like several hundred.”

Some of the spectators at the event plan to protest the commander-in-chief’s speech today.

Edens said he identifies himself as an independent. He supported Obama during the campaign, he said, but not anymore.

“I’ve never protested anything,” the 46-year-old said. “But I’m taking vacation time [today] to go protest his coming here with this socialism bill.”

While Eden plans to protest Obama’s health-care plans, he thinks it’s appropriate for the president to speak here because Iowans helped put him on the map as a candidate.

Dustin Krutsinger, a second-year medical student at the UI who donned a white lab coat at the event, also plans to protest Obama’s appearance.

“It’s government interference in the free market that was the cause of all this problem,” he said.

Obama’s speech today is expected to draw a crowd of around 3,000.

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