Is conservatives' town hall martyr for real?

One protester says he was beaten by union staffers, and is taking up a collection -- to pay his hospital bill

Published August 10, 2009 9:35PM (EDT)

Let's say you were brutally beaten by union thugs (I know, you ARE a union thug, but bear with me) while exercising your right to free speech, and were so badly injured that you're now wheelchair bound. Let's also imagine that you sustained these wounds while unemployed, and that you lack health insurance. How would you set about paying your whopping emergency-room bills? Would you A) support healthcare reforms that would guarantee you lifetime coverage regardless of your employment status, and that would allow you to pick your coverage and pay for it with a government subsidy? Or would you B) start a fund drive?

For Kenny Gladney of St. Louis, Missouri, the choice was easy. Last Thursday night, the 38-year-old conservative activist was passing out "Don't Tread on Me" flags at a healthcare town hall just south of St. Louis organized by Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., when, Gladney claims, he was set upon by members of the Service Employees International Union. By Saturday morning, 200 local conservatives were protesting Gladney's martyrdom outside SEIU offices in St. Louis. Fallen hero Gladney showed up also, in a wheelchair, and his attorney, David Brown, read a prepared statement to the crowd. Brown finished the address by noting that Gladney was accepting donations for his healthcare. Gladney then told reporters that he was out of work and without healthcare coverage.

It seems most likely, though, that Gladney is not interested in covering his expenses with Option B, but with the even-more All-American Option C, a lawsuit. Conservatives may hate trial lawyers and want to cap settlements, but even a tea-bagger knows a potential pay day when he sees one. Attorney Brown said that he was constructing a legal strategy for Gladney, but offered no details. But given that video of the Thursday incident shows, not a brutal beating, but both the alleged assailant and Gladney on the ground and then Gladney walking upright without apparent difficulty, Gladney should not count his checks before they're cashed. David Brown did not return Salon's call requesting comment.

By Billy Lovekamp

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