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Man has finger bitten off at Calif. healthcare protest

By Matthew Shaer / September 3, 2009



How do you know when the debate over healthcare reform has really gotten really ugly?

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When people start losing body parts. According to reportsout of California today, an unidentified man bit off the tip of another man's pinky finger during an altercation on a street corner in the city of Thousand Oaks. Different newspapers and blogs have different stories of how the attack went down, but Ventura County sheriff's spokesman Eric Buschow has confirmed that an assault had taken place.

"We don't know the identity of the man who bit the finger off," Buschow told the Associated Press. "We want to contact him and get his side of the story."

An AP reporter also managed to speak with the alleged victim, William Rice. "I didn't go out to demonstrate my beliefs, I happened to be driving by and I stopped to ask people what their purpose was," Rice said. "I had no signs, I was not part of the demonstration."

The original demonstration was staged by MoveOn, a progressive group. An advertisement on the organization's website called the event the "We Can't Afford to Wait Vigil," and advised participants to gather on a Thousand Oaks street corner around 7:30 in the evening. Approximately 100 people showed up, the AP estimates.

But there was also a counter protest, made up of about 25 people. At some point, witnesses say, Rice crossed over from the counter protest to the MoveOn.org camp. A fight ensued. Ilyse Hogue, a spokesman for MoveOn, gave the following statement to Politico:

Yesterday, MoveOn held over 350 peaceful candlelight vigils nationwide, in which tens of thousands of people participated in, to call for immediate action on health care reform including a strong public option. We have seen press reports that indicate at one event in Southern California a regrettable act of violence happened.
While we do not have any more facts about what happened then what we saw in press accounts, MoveOn condemns violence in all forms.... While we don't know if either party involved was a MoveOn member, we regret any violence that may have occurred yesterday, and we support the Ventura County Sheriff's investigation into the situation.

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