A shouting match broke out on the Miller Park sidewalk Friday when a health care reform protester began yelling into a microphone at a rally of reform supporters.
"We're just trying to give people an alternative to shouting and yelling at town hall (meetings)," said Bambi Evans, the rally organizer with the Tennessee Health Care Campaign.
But anti-reform demonstrator June Griffin, of Dayton, Tenn., grabbed a bullhorn and shouted at a group of supporters waving signs at the corner of M.L. King Boulevard and Market Street, telling them to "Leave us alone!"
About 15 reform backers gathered with signs and banners at Miller Park about 4 p.m. Friday to show their support for President Barack Obama's plan to change the current health care. The crowd grew as the afternoon moved on.
Supporters held a large banner stating "Leave No American Uncovered," as others held umbrellas symbolizing the rally's theme that everyone deserves health coverage, Ms. Evans said.
The rally was sponsored by the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, MoveOn and Services Employees International Union, Ms. Evans said.
Emotions got heated when several people showed up to protest the current reform plans being debated in Congress, and two Chattanooga police officers showed up to make sure the discussions didn't get out of hand, according to one of the officers.
"(I'm) not against reform," said Eric Smith, of Chattanooga, one of the protesters. "(There are) numerous free-market solutions that aren't being proposed."
Retired doctor Virginia Vollmer, a Tennessee Health Care Campaign volunteer, said she supports reform because the current primary health care plans are not working.
"Part of the reform that is very much needed is reforming the way reimbursement is done," said 86-year-old Ms. Vollmer.
Reimbursement is based on how many tests a doctor runs or how many prescriptions are written, she said, which is just paying for the services and not the outcomes.
"We need reform," said 19-year-old supporter William Kirkpatrick from Chattanooga. "People need health care."
Mr. Kirkpatrick said he is a self-employed roofer who can't afford insurance because it's too expensive.
"I feel robbed," he said. "I'm putting my two cents in. ... Why can't they help me out?"