YOUNGSTOWN - An event that had U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan set to discuss how the health care overhaul will affect residents in Trumbull and Mahoning counties was canceled Tuesday over concern for the congressman's safety.
But that didn't stop health care reform protesters from showing up to voice their displeasure with the bill's passage this week.
Ryan, among Democratic lawmakers threatened after Sunday's health care reform vote, abruptly canceled what was supposed to be a nonpartisan event at the Youngstown Community Health Center when protesters arrived at the North Side medical facility.
Hank Fiorini of Canfield, left, and Mike Landis of Lisbon protest the just-passed health care bill on Tuesday outside the Youngstown Community Health Center on Wick Avenue. U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan was to speak at the center to explain the bill, but the appearance was canceled because of protests and threats received by various congressman. To see or purchase copies of this photo and others, visit cu.tribtoday.com.
A threatening letter was mailed to the Niles Democrat after he voted in favor of passage of the bill. Neither Ryan's office nor the FBI would elaborate on the letter's contents.
Some of the threats reported by members of Congress included obscenity-laced phone messages and a fax bearing the image of a noose.
''It was an issue of security,'' Ryan spokeswoman Heather McMahon said. ''We expected security to be there that was not there. Very serious threats have been made against members of Congress.
''A, we couldn't put him in that position, and B, we couldn't allow for the disruption at the clinic to be that great,'' McMahon said.
McMahon said the office learned there would be a response and were assured security would be provided at the event. She said the office also had been talking with Youngstown police.
McMahon said, Ryan, D-Niles, will address the issue at a rescheduled event, likely sometime next week, but it will be done in ''a safe and secure environment that allows the congressman to explain what is going on.''
Among the 15 or so protesters outside the Wick Avenue facility was conservative Libertarian Cindy Sacco of Warren, who said she fears the young people, like her 30- and 26-year-old grandsons, are going to be burdened with the cost of the massive overhaul plan.
''Nancy Pelosi said in a speech it's all paid for. Really, when did free lunch come into play?'' Sacco said. ''Somebody is going to pay for this down the road, but the government keeps spending and spending. If your credit card is maxed out, you don't keep spending. But not our government.''
Suellen Blasdell of Canfield, a TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party follower, said she doesn't like the level of government control and interference.
''They voted against the will of the people,'' Blasdell said. ''Is this how socialism works? Apparently it is.''
Dr. Ronald Dwinnells, CEO of Ohio Health, which operates the Youngstown facility, said the facility provides family medicine, and about 40 percent of those it serves are uninsured or underinsured. He said protests were expected, creating concern that patient services would be disrupted.
But Pat Lowry, Ryan's spokesman who was at the event, said it wasn't the time or place for a debate.
''This is a health clinic,'' Lowry said. ''It's really not a place for partisan politics.''