Protesters in Bristol, VA: Health care not broken, keep hands off

BRISTOL, Va. – Stephen Rimer tried calling his senators’ offices during a Tuesday night rally so he could tell them to vote against President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

“I don’t think the government is capable of overseeing health care with any fiscal responsibility at all,” said Rimer, who hails from Duffield, Va.

But Rimer couldn’t get through to U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb, D-Va., when he called their offices from the rally. Instead, he said, he got messages reporting that all lines were busy, the voice mail inbox was full and he should call back later.

“That’s a good sign,” Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said at the rally, which drew a crowd of 70 people to Cumberland Square Park despite the evening rain. Phillips said the encumbered phone system meant Warner had already received plenty of calls voicing opposition to the president’s health care plan.

With chapters in 24 states, including Virginia, AFP is a grassroots group that advocates for fiscal and regulatory restraint. Phillips said the group scheduled Tuesday’s rally long before any of its staff knew Obama was due in Bristol to talk about his health care plan at the Midway Street Kroger this afternoon.

The national group is working closely with local activists to ensure that the president, his staff and the national media expected for today’s event know that not everyone in town agrees with what Obama has to say.

“We just want to let him know that we are not happy with his program,” said Strother Smith, president of the 10th Amendment Foundation, a local non-profit group pushed for the support of that amendment and is opposed to the president’s health care plan.

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