Tag Archive: Piscataway

Arrest at Pallone’s Piscataway Town Hall, Freedom of Speech? Who created ‘public alarm’?

The Home News reported on the arrest of Highland Park activist, retired Rutgers professor, David Antebi, outside Pallone’s Piscataway town hell, for a comment he made after being baited by a teabagger.  It is so far over the top that he is now facing charges.  His wife described it to me the next day as “surreal” and “Kafka-esque.” From the article, pic included:

The Highland Park man was searched by plainclothes police officers, handcuffed, fingerprinted and booked after a confrontation with people opposed to the health-care legislation being pushed by President Obama. He was charged with the disorderly persons offense of creating false public alarm

Antebi said he was egged on by the anti-reform people who were the ones who called the police.  Antebi documents protests through photography and brought a camera with him for the town hall meeting, he said.  After a heated discussion about health-care legislation with people he believes were part of an organized group, one of the opponents asked him if he had a bomb in the bag, according to Antebi. He said he laughed off what he felt was a ridiculous remark…

The alarm that I’m feeling (as well as the section of the ‘public’ that includes David’s friends and the Highland Park area activist community) is that police can use the post 9/11 hysteria to create havoc based on an off hand remark that was clearly not serious.  And there’s nothing false about that sense of public alarm.

Rush Holt Health Care Town Hall – Middletown

UPDATE #1: Dan Preston has photos from the event in a link in Comments – here.

UPDATE #2: Winston Smith had an altogether different view of this event than I did. His diary is here.

Maybe it was the configuration of the room, shallow and wide and not narrow and deep, making no allowance for shouters to use distance from the stage to intimidate like at Frank Pallone’s Red Bank Town Hall. Maybe it was the Congressional District, NJ-12 not NJ-6. And this congressman doesn’t bear direct responsibility for the public option bill, the way Pallone does, with HR 3200 out of his Health Subcommittee, of House Energy & Commerce.

But the experience of sitting in on Rush Holt’s event, while contentious, was different. It lacked the manic surges, and lines of people demanding serial sessions. Questions were collected and read aloud by the congressman. That tended to lead to briefer, substantive audience feedback, rather than the set-up Pallone staggered under in Red Bank, grappling with questions from microphones louder than his own.

I saw Holt slip into a reactive posture only once, when he called some shouters “noisemakers.” Minor. Pallone, who I saw through nearly 9 hours on his feet over 2 nights, kept his cool completely. The tamer audience allowed for a better information flow. From both sides. And Holt got the chance to be eloquent.

Asked if public option meant rationed care:

As a matter of fact, health care is rationed right now. Some people don’t get it! And I prefer rational health care, which this would be, over rationed.

Why is this legislation moving so fast?

The situation as it is now is not sustainable. And it’s not morally or ethically acceptable. Further, the economy will not recover as long as we’re saddled with these escalating health care costs. In fact, this should have been done before this time.

To a similar question, about timing:

We’ve been working toward some of the elements of this for many years. It goes back to Roosevelt – Teddy Roosevelt, as well as FDR.

After the Town Hall, Holt met privately with three reporters. One of us asked where all this vitriol and opposition was coming from:

Well, I can certainly point you toward some websites that are the source of misinformation and upset. But where the anxiety of people is coming from is tougher to say. We are living through tough economic times. A lot of people are on edge. And, in fact, a lot of people are living on the edge.

We’re going to try to cover as many of the Congressional Town Halls as we can. Shoot us an email – contact@bluejersey.com – if you know one’s coming. If you go, we hope you’ll write about it here. Holt’s was last Wednesday. But I needed recovery time after the stress of two last week. Two more coming from Holt, both on Saturday, Sept. 12: 9:00am in Somerset & 2:30pm in Tinton Falls.  

Rush Holt Health Care Town Hall – Middletown

Maybe it was the configuration of the room, which was shallow and wide and not narrow and deep, making no allowance for angry shouters to use their distance from the speaker to intimidate the rest of the auditorium like they did at Frank Pallone’s Red Bank Town Hall last week. Maybe it was the different Congressional District, NJ-12 not NJ-6. Almost certainly it was that this congressman didn’t bear direct responsibility for the health care reform bill containing the much-debated public option, HR 3200, the way Pallone certainly does with the bill coming out of his Health Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

But the experience of sitting in on Rush Holt’s public event on the same topic last week, while contentious, lacked the surging intimdation tactics and the deep lines of people waiting to get in to what had to be multiple sessions each night. Questions submitted by the audience were collected and read aloud by the congressman, who then addressed them. And in some cases, that led to briefer, substantive questions and commentary from the audience, rather than the situation Pallone had in Red Bank, grappling with questions from microphones turned up higher than his own.