Around 100 people total turned out for this event today. I'm getting the impression that it was thrown together last minute by the OFA as a response to the Tea Party event that drew "dozens" yesterday to downtown Grand Rapids. Apparently, the OFA is planning on matching these demonstrations when and where they can find them. Good to see.
Media coverage was spotty at best, misleading at worst. The GR Press skipped yesterday's event, but was here today, and basically gets the attendance count and story right. Both GR TV stations came out yesterday, only WZZM showed up today - and their coverage was the perfect example of how some media will try to play these events as 50-50, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Here is the WZZM write up entitled "Proponents and opponents divide Michigan Street in Health Care Debate".
Either way, the debate setting told the story better than words. Proponents and opponents of Obama's health care reform were separated by Michigan Street.
One on the north side, one on the south side of the medical mile.
"What do we want? Public option! When do we want it? Now!," screamed members of Organizing for America.
Those in the group mostly support the President's plan to provide universal health care.
"The current system is out of whack because you've got all the insurance companies jackin' up the prices," says Kent County Commissioner Paul Mayhue.
Opposition came from West Michigan's Tea Party.
"Talk to the people in Canada," says Lynn Kehoe of Grand Rapids. "Canada has been broke for years with their nationalized health care."
No head count whatsoever in this story, just this back-and-forth he-said she-said description. They had a camera crew there, but as of 9:30PM - no video up on the site. The event was at 2PM.
Below is the "debate setting that told the story better than words". The pro-reform crowd: the GR Press says around 70, I have a picture where I counted at least 83. It was hard to get them in one close shot because they were wrapped around the corner...
The anti-government crowd across the street - the Press said 20, and that is about right.
Was this WZZM story some sort of attempt at "fair and balanced" that actually distorted the whole event? At this point - obviously yes. If they do add video later, that might give a different impression, but by the text you get the idea that it was an even affair. It definitely was not.
Now, the teabaggers were down there yesterday, "dozens" of them in a county with a population of 605,000, so that probably depressed the turn out for today. The organization boasts 400 members according to WOOD. Hardly a show of popular opinion, and if accurately described you would call them "fringe" - but they garner media attention that the original Bush protesters could only dream of.
Another reason to go to your local events if you can, and report back on what you see. Take pictures, make videos, whatever - you never know when it might be needed to show what really happened.
Oh, and why are West Michigan baggers the best baggers around?
They have their own t-shirts!
Beat that, America!