A group of 500 demonstrators, many of them waving empty trays to protest proposed changes in the federal school lunch program, Monday forced the cancellation of a speech by House Speaker Newt Gingrich to county leaders.
The protesters, members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, took over the head table at the National Association of Counties meeting before Gingrich, R-Ga., arrived. “Don’t take the food out of the children’s mouths,” said Maxine Nelson, a protester from Pine Bluff, Ark.
Gingrich did not see the protest, but he later characterized it as an “organized, systematic, paid demonstration.”
“Their idea of a dialogue is to chant with bullhorns,” Gingrich said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “I thought that was an interesting commentary on those that would extort money out of the taxpayer.”
At least one county official sided with Gingrich.
“This only makes me less supportive of their cause,” said Shirley Greene, county commission chairwoman from Latah County, Idaho. “… It’s about time people figured out they have to do something for themselves rather than have their hand out to the government.”