Modesto had its own town hall meeting over health care reform Friday — only it didn't include a town hall.
Nearly 200 people gathered downtown during lunchtime to rally in support of or against changes to the U.S. health care system.
The rallies took place at Tenth Street Plaza, in front of the office of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced. Unlike many of his colleagues across the nation, Cardoza isn't holding town hall meetings during the congressional recess to discuss reforms.
More than 150 people stood on the east side of 10th Street to protest President Barack Obama's reform proposals and call out Cardoza for not holding any public meetings.
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On the west side near Brenden Theatres, about 30 people supported reform that would provide universal medical care. They first rallied at 9 a.m. on the corner of 10th and J streets, but they returned to rebut the opposition's gathering at noontime.
The hourlong, side-by-side rallies inspired much of the same emotion on display across the country. Although some from each side were able to discuss their points of view, others simply shouted at each other.
The rallies drew rubbernecking onlookers. Some workers ate lunch on benches in the plaza or at Fuzio restaurant, curiously peering at the protesters. Most went about their business and tried to stay out of the way.
Universal health care supporters held signs reading "Support Health Care Reform Now." Many belong to the Central Valley Democratic Club.
"There's no bill yet, but we want to have honest, open debate," said Taylor White, president of the club. "It's great to see such a great turnout on both sides."
Those protesting government-run health care proposals carried signs stating their concern about finding the money to pay for universal health care. Some signs read "Give me Liberty, not Tyranny," "Stop Ignoring the Majority" and "We don't want government controlling health care."
Most of that group included people who belong to the Modesto and Turlock Tea Party associations.
"The goal is to have a meeting with Cardoza," said Christi Falke of the Turlock Tea Party. "We want a chance to be able to say what we think about this. It's frustrating. What's the hurry? It's important enough and it affects everybody — why can't we take the time to do it right?"
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.