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500 RALLY FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM

Elsewhere, protesters blast the president's plan, calling it misguided and expensive.

Nearly 500 people got riled up at Al Lopez Park on Saturday for the latest stop on Organizing for America's Health Care Reform Now! bus tour.

Formerly Obama for America, the grass roots organization champions the causes of the man it helped to elect - President Barack Obama - and today's issue is health care.

Seven speakers piled out of the large blue bus and dived right into the task at hand: persuading supporters and former election volunteers to hit the streets and gin up enthusiasm for the proposed legislation generated by the five bills being hashed out in Congress.

"Contact your members of Congress, and show Congress that we want health care reform," said Robin Rosenbaum, the group's regional director.

Blue signs with "Standing Together for Health Care Reform" and "Thank You" in white lettering shot up in the air as crowds cheered.

Then came the stories from real people about health care.

Terry Watson, 61, of Tampa has heart disease and was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, he told the crowd. He was high risk for a surgical procedure to treat his cancer, so an American hospital refused to treat him.

That's when he researched other treatments and found one he could withstand - but the technology wasn't offered in the States. He was treated in Tokyo and paid just $10,000 out of pocket for the procedure and the four-day hospital stay, he said.

"There is a humanitarian issue here," Watson shouted.

The organization's national director, Mitch Stewart, said since June 6 the group has hosted 14,000 events in 2,500 cities.

Others rallied for the other side Saturday. A huge rally in Washington, D.C., condemned Obama's health care plan as misguided and too expensive.

Closer to the Tampa Bay area, about 2,500 people showed up in downtown Lakeland for a TEA - Taxed Enough Already - party, the Lakeland Ledger reported.

Anti-Obama signs and self-professed conservatives appeared to dominate the audience and lineup of speakers, which included U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, who's running against fellow Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, the Ledger reported.

"Both parties are guilty of what faces this country today. Both parties spent money we don't have," Rubio said. "What's at stake here is the very essence of our country's greatness: self-governance."

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