US healthcare protesters rally against Obama plan
TENS of thousands of protesters carrying signs saying 'Obama Socialism' and 'Keep government out of healthcare', descended on Washington at the weekend to oppose government spending and the rising US budget deficit.
"This tax-and-spend government wants to limit our freedom and erode people's rights," said Leonard Starr (65) from Richmond, Virginia. "We're building a giant bureaucracy headed to fascism using untruthfulness and lies."
Demonstrators, wrapped in American flags, holding banners and wearing shirts condemning Democratic President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, expressed outrage at plans to overhaul the US healthcare system, place a cap on carbon emissions and bail out companies.
Mr Obama is trying to extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and rein in healthcare costs that account for about one-sixth of the US economy. The overhaul would cost $900bn (€618bn) over 10 years.
The protesters filled Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House and marched toward the Capitol.
The crowd numbered in the tens of thousands, according to CNN and Fox News.
Meanwhile, at a near-simultaneous rally in Minneapolis on Saturday, President Obama encouraged supporters to knock on doors to gather backing for healthcare reform. An estimated 13,000 people were at the Minneapolis event.
Mr Obama promised to fight back against opponents and special interests working to defeat the effort.
"This is when they're going to fight with everything they've got," President Obama said. "This is when they'll spread all kinds of wild rumours to scare and intimidate people."
At the Washington protest, Michelle Barker (38) carried a sign depicting Mr Obama as the 'Joker' villain from Batman.
And Jeremy Batterson (40) passed out pamphlets with a picture of the US president sprouting a Hitler-like moustache. He said Mr Obama was trying to insert a provision into the healthcare bill to perform euthanasia on the terminally ill and senior citizens. "We have to stop him," said Mr Batterson.
The Washington rally was organised by members of the Tea Party Patriots and the National Taxpayers Union, among other conservative interest groups.
Sabrina Barr (38), an Atlanta estate agent with four children, expressed worries about the so-called cap-and-trade plan that provides for trading of carbon emission rights to help limit greenhouse gases.
"It would cost money and create more taxes," said Ms Barr. "Anything that costs us money costs us jobs."