Florida rally for public health-care option draws counter protest

MIAMI — A rally called to support a public health-care option outside Sen. Bill Nelson's office in Coral Gables quickly turned into a cross-street chanting and shouting match Thursday afternoon between about 250 backers and opponents.

The rally, organized by the liberal, generated the latest in a string of heated and emotional public exchanges about health-care reform, after opponents of the measures working their way through Congress also showed up.

Dave Patlak, a volunteer who hosted the rally, said citizens had gathered to ask Nelson, D-Fla., to support a public health-care option.

"It's the only real way to keep the insurance companies honest,'' Patlak said.

MoveOn attracted about 100 supporters of the public option.

Marcos Sendon, editor and president of, organized the counter-protests of about 150 opponents.

Much of the debate Thursday was drowned out by chants, car horns and, at one point, the singing of the national anthem.

Opponents chanted "Obama is a liar!'' and "No Obamacare!'' across Salzedo Street toward placard-wielding supporters, who shouted back "Facts not fear!''

About a dozen Coral Gables police officers were on the scene, which was often tense but never violent.

Nelson, who is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, was not present.

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