ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Protesters are demanding justice for a man who was injured during fighting that erupted last week when audience members at a St. Louis-area aging forum began yelling about health care reform.
Backers of Kenneth Gladney, 38, of St. Louis, gathered Saturday at the offices of the Service Employees International Union for an event organized by the pro-limited government Tea Party coalition.
The group claims union members attacked the politically conservative Gladney at the event two days earlier. But members of the union, which supports the president's health care plan, say Gladney initiated the fight.
The melee, which ended in six arrests, was one of several at town hall meetings around the country as Democratic lawmakers returning home faced resistance to proposals to reform the nation's costly health care system. U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., organized the event in Mehlville.
On Saturday, Gladney sat in a wheelchair, his knee bandaged, holding a flag that read: "Don't Tread on Me." Others who gathered at the union offices held signs with a slightly different version of the message: "Don't Tread on Kenny."
The union offices weren't open, and the union didn't send members to attend.
Gladney's attorney, David Brown, received cheers from the crowd of about 200 people when he read a statement written by his client.
"A few nights ago there was an assault on my liberty, and on yours, too." Brown read. "This should never happen in this country."
Brown told the crowd that Gladney is accepting donations toward his medical expenses. Gladney told reporters he was laid off recently and has no health insurance.
A handful of supporters of the president's plan attended, including Michael Browning, a Washington University student.
"We saw the video (of Thursday's events), and we don't agree with their interpretation of it," Browning said.
"In the beginning we were being shouted down," he added. "But in the end we had a civil conversation. We even shook hands."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)