Protesters gather for Speaker Ryan at Massachusetts stop

July 20, 2017 GMT

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — Protesters staged a small but boisterous rally Thursday outside a New Balance sneaker factory in Massachusetts where U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan was expected to discuss Republican plans for tax reform.

The rally took place across from the factory in a historic mill building in Lawrence along the Merrimack River.

More than 100 demonstrators held signs and shouted slogans criticizing Republican efforts to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law.


The crowd chanted: “Health care for all” and “No hate. No fear. Paul Ryan is not welcome here.” Some waved signs reading: “Shame on you Paul Ryan,” ″Care not chaos,” and “Hands off my health care.”

The Massachusetts chapter of the Service Employees International Union, which represents health care workers, organized the rally.

The Rev. Laura Hoke of the Andover Unitarian Universalist Church called Ryan’s visit to Lawrence “pretty outrageous.” The predominantly Latino and blue-collar city, Hoke contended, is among those that would be the most impacted by Republican health care and immigration policies.

“It’s baffling. They’re continuing to push this mythology that tax cuts for the rich will magically help the poor,” she said.

“We’re proud of New Balance and what it’s done in the community, but Paul Ryan doesn’t represent our values,” said Matt Bausemer, a 39-year-old vocational school teacher who was wearing a pair of the company’s sneakers.

Rich Kaufman, 44, of nearby North Andover, said the GOP’s proposed tax reform overhaul — which is still being negotiated behind closed doors in Washington — is an affront to working families because it represents a giveaway to the wealthy at the expense of Medicaid and other programs vital to low- and middle-income Americans.

“This is not how civilized countries look out for their citizens,” said Boryana Tacconi, of Andover, a 69-year-old recently retiree.