Bucks County Courier Times

Hundreds Protest New Jersey Congressman Tom MacArthur, Health Care Bill At Town Hall

Bucks County Courier Times — May 11, 2017

By Kelly Kultys, staff writer

WILLINGBORO, N.J. — While Congressman Tom MacArthur tried to sell the new health care bill he helped construct and soothe fears inside his town hall meeting, the crowd outside also had messages for him.

A group of about 20 took to the ground with homemade tombstones at their heads, symbolically dying of the American Health Care Act. The gravestones read things like "Hit insurance cap Cancer Recurred," "RIP No Money for Care," and "ACA Repeal Killed Me."

hen there were the chants of "vote him out" and "hey, hey, ho, ho, Tom MacArthur's got to go" that echoed throughout the crowd, which began gathering about two hours before the town hall began at the John F. Kennedy Center.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside with their signs, and in one case, an inflatable President Donald Trump "tax chicken" to voice their displeasure with MacArthur and his role in shaping the act passed by the House of Representatives last week.

New Jersey Citizen Action hung a sign on the building that read, "Congressman Tom MacArthur, Don't Take Our Health Care." Other signs, read "Repeal and Replace MacArthur," playing off of the Republicans' motto of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

At one point a plane, like those iconic at the Jersey Shore, flew overhead with a sign that read "MacArthur, tax cuts for the 1%, no care."

"I don't know if he knows what's happening in his own community. He kind of stays in Ocean County a lot and we don't really get to see him." said Terry Cini of Riverton. "We try to get our message to him as best as we can, but he doesn't seem to want to listen to us."

While the vast majority came out to oppose the AHCA, not everyone outside was upset with MacArthur.

Joseph Joyce, of Delran, said he wanted to get inside to ask how the legislation could help his family of six.

"I lost my insurance under the ACA," Joyce said. "I had to go to a more expensive plan."

He said he wanted others to hear the congressman out and learn more about the bill before they protested it.

"I came here to oppose this American Health Care Act," said Peter Bilavarian, of Mount Laurel.

Annamarie Miller and her two daughters, Suzanne and Michelle, all of Delran, came out to oppose the planned repeal.

"Health care is a human right in my opinion," Michelle Miller said.

Kevin Kennedy and his wife, Pat Crotty, of Watertown, Ocean County, said they were disappointed with MacArthur's voting record so far, especially under the new administration.

"He's Trump without the hair," Kennedy said, holding a sign that showed a drawing of Trump with hair and then a picture of MacArthur, representing a bald version of the president.

Veronica Robertson, of Medford Lakes, and her mother, Lisa, attended the Women's March on Washington and said they felt they had to come out and make their voices heard.

"My goal is to make sure MacArthur is not re-elected," Lisa Robertson said.

Sean Rovins, of Moorestown, wanted to come out because Rovins' family would be affected by the new bill.

"My mother is elderly. My sister and I both have pre-existing conditions," Rovins said. "We're struggling enough with health care already, the system is so confusing. We can't afford what's about to happen."

Hundreds could not fit inside the packed house so they stayed on outside even hours after the official town hall began. Democratic officials used that time to speak to those in attendance, while the Burlington County Young Democrats worked to get people registered to vote.

"This was fantastic," said Stephen Steglik, of Maple Shade, the chairman of the Young Democrats. "This is exactly what we needed to do to show Tom MacArthur, a Republican-led Congress and all elected officials that in this country we're no longer going to stay silent when people take away our basic right of living, like health care."

Steglik and others in attendance said that the next step is for people to translate this kind of enthusiasm into voting at all levels from local up to national.

The rally was organized by a variety of groups including the Burlington County Young Democrats, Indivisible NJ 3rd, the Tax March and New Jersey Citizen Action. While police were on hand, the protest remained peaceful.

For some residents such as Taylor Jones, of Willingboro, seeing this many people gathered in his town for an important issue made him proud.

"I came out because I've never seen people come together like this in Willingboro," Jones said. "It gives me a lot of pride."

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