Crowd gathers early for Obama Montana visit

2009-08-14T12:45:00Z 2014-07-09T23:22:35Z Crowd gathers early for Obama Montana visitMIKE DENNISON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette
August 14, 2009 12:45 pm  • 

BELGRADE - Hundreds of demonstrators - and more than 1,000 ticket-holders - gathered early today at the Gallatin Field Airport here, waiting for President Barack Obama to arrive for a town-hall meeting on health-care reform.

President Barack Obama arrived here with his wife, Michelle, and his two daughters, at 12:30 p.m. today, as hundreds of demonstrators _ and 1,300 ticket-holders _ gathered at the Gallatin Field Airport for a town-hall meeting on health-care reform.

The president and his family, joined by U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, both Montana Democrats, strolled across the tarmac to a hangar, where 1,300 people waited for the event to start.

By 10 a.m., several hundred demonstrators from political camps that spanned the ideological spectrum had begun setting up shop in a grassy field at the southeast corner of the airport.

Less than a quarter-mile away, those fortunate enough to get tickets for the event were streaming into an airport hangar where the president was to conduct the meeting beginning at about 1 p.m.

The hangar held some 1,300 people who got tickets on a first-come, first-served basis Thursday in Bozeman and Belgrade, or from the state's two Democratic U.S. senators, each of whom said they had a "handful" of tickets to hand out to friends and supporters.

Today's town meeting, focusing on the problem of people losing their health insurance because of a serious illness, is one of three the president is holding across the country to attempt to counter vocal opposition to health-care reforms, primarily from conservatives, Republicans and their political allies.

The president was in Portsmouth, N.H., earlier this week and will be in Grand Junction, Colo., on Saturday for another town meeting.

While the crowd inside the hangar was subdued, it was a raucous scene outside in the designated demonstration area, as opponents and supporters of the president waved signs and shouted slogans.

Anti-Obama crowds could be heard chanting "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Chicago thugs have got to go," while the president's supporters, who arrived in buses and cars from across the state, countered with "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the status quo has got to go."

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