(WASHINGTON) — The space just outside the Supreme Court morphed into a figurative battlefield Tuesday afternoon as Tea Party forces rallied and confronted Obamacare supporters with screams, personal attacks and provocative signs.
The argument erupted in the middle of the de facto no-man’s land that had formed between Tea Partiers and a group of Obama supporters, far fewer than had been present at organized demonstrations Tuesday morning.
Tea Partiers and Obamacare supporters chanted and yelled at one another, making it impossible to hear anyone more than three feet away. The scene was drastically different from that of the morning, when Obamacare supporters sang in an orderly march, drowning out their conservative counterparts.
This time the attacks were personal — on both sides.
One man and woman (who didn’t give their names) were arguing over the principles of patriotism and constitutionality. “He’s got a big mouth and he’s not qualified for the job,” the man said of Obama before spotting this reporter and asking: “What are you writing? Walk away.”
“We’re not trying to start a fight,” the woman replied. “We’re trying to start a conversation.”
Behind them, a young woman grabbed a megaphone being used by an anti-abortion activist to scream into it, “It’s a law against ugly women!”
Fifteen feet to the right, a half-dozen pro-Obama demonstrators directed signs in support of the president at Tea Party protesters who were standing a few yards away. A male protester hurled a comment about birth control at the Obama supporters.
“Unless you actually have a vagina, don’t go there, OK?” 30-year-old Fatma Hocaoglu screamed back.
Another man who refused to be identified joined the fray. “I don’t want to pay for her abortion!” he blared. “With Obamacare, we do. Yes, we do.”
A few minutes later, an Obamacare supporter and foe who were screaming at each other about their medical conditions broke the ranks to show each other their insurance cards.
The supporter, Barbara Stakes, a retiree from Pennsylvania with a seizure disorder classified as a “pre-existing condition,” explained that she had been turned down for health coverage.
“I pay for this,” she said. “I was rejected.”
Danny Mullaney, a former home-improvement contractor from Baltimore, replied by saying that he has cancer and won’t be able to get it treated under Obamacare.
“They’re going to kick me off,” he insisted. “They’re going to ration.”
Not that there weren’t scenes of harmony. As an organized Tea Party rally began to start, the animated activists stopped yelling and sang the national anthem.
So was Conner Beagle, a 10-year-old from Indiana whose mom brought him to Washington to witness the health care debate.
“In 20 years, I’ll remember this,” Conner said as his mom, Gina Lemasters, who works for the anti-Obamacare National Federation of Independent Business in Rep. Mike Pence’s district, shot video of him on her phone. “The health bill — it’s history.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Brian Stelter, CNN
Noelle Baldwin, Deseret News