Obama tour draws protest

Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Supporters rally at Leo O'Laughlin Inc. on Tuesday, the eve of President Barack Obama's visit to Macon, Mo.
Patrick T. Fallon
Associated Press

MACON, Mo. -- One day before President Barack Obama's planned visit to Main Street Missouri, hundreds of small-town protesters offered their own message Tuesday night: Keep your hands off our government.

They praised God and country while blasting what they said was unneeded health care reform and creeping socialism. With homemade signs and oversized crosses, the Obama opponents sat in lawn chairs or stood along the concrete parking lot at Leo O'Laughlin Inc., a trucking company and concrete manufacturer in northern Missouri.

"I respect the office of the president," said Becky McDonald, 58, a Grundy County cattle farmer. "But it's gone too far with liberalism. We have to get back to our roots. It has just gone too far."

The Missouri Republican Party and a tea party group called the Macon County Patriots used Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about the event. The Republican Party estimated the crowd at 1,100.

The president is scheduled to tour a Macon ethanol plant today and visit a local farm before a stop in Quincy, Ill. On Tuesday, he visited several Iowa towns on what the administration called its "White House to Main Street tour."

While Obama will hold a Quincy town hall meeting, only plant employees will attend his visit to Poet Biorefining. Among the protesters, the consensus was that the views echoed Tuesday night accurately represent beliefs in rural, heavily conservative Macon County.

"Tonight your voice will be heard all the way from Main Street right to the White House," said U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, whose district includes Macon. Luetkemeyer spoke by speaker phone from Washington. He was joined by Rep. Roy Blunt, the leading Republican candidate for the state's soon-to-be-open U.S. Senate seat.

The state chapter of the tea party group Americans for Prosperity, led by Republican former state House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden, also helped organize the Stand Up 4 Freedom protest.

Bearden and the other speakers decried what it says is an overreaching federal government that issues environmental regulation at the cost of free enterprise. The former lawmaker criticized state Attorney General Chris Koster for not filing a lawsuit against the federal government over its new health care law.

Bearden also told the crowd to stand up against the "hired help," later clarifying that he was referring to the state's federal elected leaders in general, not specifically to Obama, the nation's first black president.

"They all work for us," he said. "But they seem to have forgotten that fact."

Jonathan Prouty, a Missouri Republican Party spokesman, said the turnout exceeded organizers' expectations. He credited the event's online marketing efforts.

"You've got people here who never would have heard about this event watching TV or reading the newspaper," he said.

A Democratic Party spokesman did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

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