Sides square off outside Ted Yoho's office

John Pastore, a supporter of Congressman Ted Yoho, center, speaks to the crowd during a protest about the government shutdown outside Yoho's offices on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 in Gainesville, Fla.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 9:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 9:39 p.m.

Chanting, sign-waving, speeches and shout-downs of speeches turned what was supposed to be a Wednesday evening protest of U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho into a political standoff when supporters of the tea party-backed congressman showed up as well.

Chants of "Hey hey, ho ho Ted Yoho has got to go" were countered with "We support Ted" and, led by Alachua County Commissioner Susan Baird, "We love Ted" at the rally at Yoho's northwest Gainesville office near the Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County.

The event came as leaders in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday developed a bill that would end the federal government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling — ending a standoff created when some Republican House members, including Yoho, refused to support any bill that did not include defunding or making substantial changes to the Affordable Care Act.

"This is great civic engagement. These are folks on both sides of the aisle coming out to exercise their constitutional rights," said Kat Cammack, Yoho's chief of staff, at the protest. "This is exactly what we need as a nation — speaking out and letting their representative hear their voice."

The protest was sponsored by the North Central Florida Labor Council, the American Federation of Government Employees local 2779, American Postal Workers Union Local 3525, and other groups.

Protesters have held other events at Yoho's office in the past two weeks, but this one drew Yoho supporters. While the two camps were gathering in different areas of the parking lot, the pro-Yoho people appeared to outnumber the Yoho protesters.

The speeches mirrored the debate in Washington.

Advocates of the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, have said the act is needed to ensure people get adequate health care and to reduce costs by preventing illness and curbing the use of hospital emergency rooms.

Critics have said the Affordable Care Act will greatly increase government debt, create a new entitlement program and raise the cost of medical care.

Supporters of Yoho at Wednesday's rally said government spending needs to be reined in and they agreed with the tactics of Yoho and the GOP's tea party wing. Yoho's detractors said those tactics are hurting the nation economically by creating uncertainty in financial markets and costing jobs through slashed budgets.

While speakers, including furloughed Gainesville employees of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center, were speaking about the fallout from the shutdown, Yoho supporters tried to shout them down.

At one point they interrupted Cammack as she was trying to lay some ground rules and urging respect.

Protest organizer Jeremiah Tattersall also called for respect.

"There is a program here where the people not supportive of Yoho have speakers," Tattersall said. "After that, I would be very happy if people who support Yoho also spoke."

Laurie Newsom, president of the Gainesville Tea Party, said Yoho supporters from throughout his district attended, including residents of neighboring counties.

"We wanted to come down here and show Ted our support," Newsom said.

Signs included "Do you hate Obamacare more than you love your country?" and "Yoho makes good cents."

It appears the only local politicians to attend were Baird and Alachua County School Board member Eileen Roy, a Democrat.

Yoho is in his first term and has drawn national attention for his comments and actions during the past few weeks.

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