Tea Party Activists Show Their Classy Side

Only the class is detention:

Abusive, derogatory and even racist behavior directed at House Democrats by Tea Party protesters on Saturday left several lawmakers in shock.

Preceding the president’s speech to a gathering of House Democrats, thousands of protesters descended around the Capitol to protest the passage of health care reform. The gathering quickly turned into abusive heckling, as members of Congress passing through Longworth House office building were subjected to epithets and even mild physical abuse.

A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a ‘ni–er.’ And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a “faggot,” as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president’s speech, shrugged off the incident.

But Clyburn was downright incredulous, saying he had not witnessed such treatment since he was leading civil rights protests in South Carolina in the 1960s.

“It was absolutely shocking to me,” Clyburn said, in response to a question from the Huffington Post. “Last Monday, this past Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Claflin University where fifty years ago as of last Monday… I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit ins… And quite frankly I heard some things today I have not heard since that day. I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus.”

“It doesn’t make me nervous as all,” the congressman said, when asked how the mob-like atmosphere made him feel. “In fact, as I said to one heckler, I am the hardest person in the world to intimidate, so they better go somewhere else.”

Josh Marshall notes that a TPM reporter, Brian Beutler, was there:

Things are getting pretty heated in the Capitol with crowds of anti-Reform/Tea Party activists going through the halls shouting slogans and epithets at Democratic members of Congress.

As our Brian Beutler reports, a few moments ago in the Longworth office building, a group swarmed a very calm looking Henry Waxman, as he got on the elevator, with shouts of “Kill the bill!” “You liar! You crook!”

Not long before, Rep. Barney Frank got an uglier version of the treatment. Just after Frank rounded a corner to leave the building, an older protestor yelled “Barney, you faggot.” The surrounding crowd of protestors then erupted in laughter.

Brian’s writes about what he saw and heard, here.

Echidne has a photo of one of the signs. It reads, in part, “If Brown can’t stop it, Browning can.” With a hand-drawn picture of a gun.

Think Progress provides some details about the distinguished speakers who addressed the crowd, as well as the organizations that sponsored the event:

Tea Party activists have gathered on Capitol Hill today for a “Code Red” rally against health care reform. Speakers at the event included Republican Reps. Steve King (IA), Michele Bachmann (MN), and Mike Pence (IN). The gathering was organized by Tea Party Profiteer organizations like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity. ThinkProgress attended today’s rally and spotted a sign threatening violence if health care passes. The sign reads: “Warning: If Brown can’t stop it, a Browning can,” referring to Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and a Browning firearm[.]

Prof. Darren Hutchinson points out that this kind of poisonous stuff is always just under the surface:

Homophobia and racism are pervasive social forces, and fear and anxiety often bring out the worst biases in people. Hence, these developments, though quite disturbing, are not shocking. Furthermore, the Tea Party movement began its healthcare protests in a circus-like atmosphere; apparently, things will remain that way until the bitter end.

Amanda Terkel gives us Sen. Jim DeMint’s comments about the protests:

On Twitter, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) wrote that he was “grateful for the thousands of patriots who are storming the Capitol today protesting government healthcare and defending freedom.”

Kathryn Jean Lopez has the grace to call the racist and homophobic slurs “shameful, uncivil, and wrong.” Good for you, K Lo.

Fox News provides the fairness and balance:

Just days after holding a rally in Washington, Tea Party activists returned Saturday to make one final stand against the health care reform bill ahead of an expected Sunday vote.

Thousands of Tea Partiers descended upon the Capitol in an effort to derail the march toward “Obamacare” by pressuring undecided lawmakers to vote “no” Sunday.

At times protestors broke into chants of “Kill the bill!”

More than 60 Tea Party affiliates organized the event in the four days since Tuesday’s rally after organizers were flooded with requests to hold another one for those who couldn’t take off of work for the first one.

The article is longer than this, but don’t worry — there’s no mention of the N word, the F word, the pun with the gun, or the spittle. The best part, though, is the photograph. Go on, take a look. It’ll make your day. I laughed out loud the moment I set eyes on it.

I’ll end with a little ditty for Glenn Reynolds — with apologies to Woody Guthrie:

As I kept walking, I saw a sign there, and on the sign it said, “Got my Browning.” But on the other side, it didn’t say nothin’. THAT side was made for you (not me).


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  1. The lecture I received about how I didn't understand the difference between racism and anti-immigration-ism was in a different thread. I tried to reference the comment by name, but it was edited out.

  2. I knew it would take a while but this behavior would be the subject of a thread, or two, or ten, eventually.

    No excuse for it, as I said much earlier on this site (when I made it first known).

    Is that what the Tea Party and the mainstream fearful of excess government is about? No, obviously.

  3. “Is that what the Tea Party and the mainstream fearful of excess government is about? No, obviously.”

    Yeah. For one it is about money (as in increasing ratings) and for the other is about fame.

    Don't you see the loop? People don't get on TV by being ordinary. They are both feeding off of each other.

  4. “Don't you see the loop? People don't get on TV by being ordinary. They are both feeding off of each other.”

    Hopefully you don't actually believe that the racist types, etc., that made the news were trying to be scumbags simply to become news.  Even deliberately rude and controversial Ann Coulter (who has not been a newsmaker for months, in case you didn't notice; I suspect part of her disappearance is because the public tired of that behavior and didn't want to reward it any longer) was likely doing it for money more than merely for fame.

    I believe they were just scumbags and sore losers (it became obvious yesterday that passage of the legislation was likely).  They're hardly characteristic of the rest of the opposition (better behaved than the lefty side all year, even accounting for loss of control by lefties right now, as seen everywhere, over the hype and hysteria over getting legislation passed for a Change [tm] — legislation they hated up until yesterday or today, in so many cases).  That these people could be sore losers as well as scumbags is techically or intellectually as important or more important as news.

  5. “Police detained the individual…”

    A name and a police report would be helpful.

  6. All we have is “he said/(s)he said” at this point. And we don't even know who “(s)he” is.

  7. rightklik, hey man, guess you didnt hear; go google it, youre way behind. It's not he said/ she said. Nice try, but no cigar for you. You're about 24 hours behind.

  8. Gay Patriot: ABC News Inflames Race and Gay Baiting In America
    ABC News had (and still has) no substantiation of the Lewis and Frank charges.
    I WANT to know who this alleged race-baiter was.

  9. Gay Patriot: ABC News Inflames Race and Gay Baiting In America
    ABC News had (and still has) no substantiation of the Lewis and Frank charges.
    Why, pray tell, doesn’t Rep. Cleaver press charges? I WANT to know who this alleged race-baiter was.


  10. So many people appear to have forgotten the Kenneth Gladney incident with the SEIU. And the William Rice story.


  11. “Even deliberately rude and controversial Ann Coulter (who has not been a newsmaker for months, in case you didn't notice; “

    And how many years did that take?

    The media is always on the lookout for controversy. The more colorful the better and when people don't scream loud enough, you can egg them on for the camera (remember?). Not for nothing do they stick mics in front of the guts wearing funny clothes and carrying dumb signs.

    People will do just about anything to get on TV and if they are lucky like Joe the Plumber and Patty Sheehan, they might make a couple of bucks, too.

  12. Something else for the liberals to ignore:

    Rep Emanuel Cleaver II, Missouri Democrat, who is black, claimed he was spat on by a protester. Mr. Cleaver's office reportedly said Capitol Police arrested the protester, but his office did not press charges. However, Sgt. Kimberly Schneider of the U.S. Capitol Police said in an e-mail to the L.A. Times, “We did not make any arrests today.”


  13. “And how many years did that take?”

    Too long for me, but the main thing is, I believe the public rejected her style and so did the media.

    (I actually don't know why she stopped, and even the far-left accusations of mental illness may have more weight than the mainstream public originally suspected; who knows?)

    “The media is always on the lookout for controversy.”

    That, titillation, and sensationalism.  The media are liberal and politically driven, as we've seen with much in the way of scare stories, but one can't overlook sensationalism in particular, which often has outweighed any political considerations.  (If it's sensational enough, or can't be hidden any more, even a Dem scandal can become major news, as we saw with Lewinsky.)  With many of these things, it's not political at all, but instead sensationalism, all right.  Lurid, raunchy…

    “People will do just about anything to get on TV and if they are lucky like Joe the Plumber and Patty Sheehan, they might make a couple of bucks, too.”

    Then you have Sarah Palin (who has been boosted by poor treatment of her by liberals, including in the media) and the example I don't like currently, Glenn Beck (not sensationalism but choosing to be controversial with his misuse of “progressives” as the devil of choice, and the personality cult stuff — “Listen to me!”)  I'm not so much scared by his excesses, as I believe he's just exploiting his own popularity better than Sarah Palin is, just a marketing ploy to make him wealthy, but I don't like it.  All that's missing is “anti-government” Beck being “drafted” to run for government office.



  14. Where is the video of “crowds of tea partiers surging down the halls of Congress, screaming imprecations”, Kathy?

    I don't disbelieve the reports that someone made an antigay slur directed at Frank, nor the report that someone may have spat on a black Congressman. Those are disgusting incidents. However, the video that has accompanied most of the stories of the latter did not actually show the incident, and so certainly didn't justify the assertion that this behavior was widespread. The video showed the Congressmen walking down the street to the Capitol, with crowds shouting “Kill the Bill”. If you think that people shouldn't be allowed to express that opinion, well, I don't know what to say about that. If you think that even without evidence (and contrary to evidence, in fact), we should assume that individual acts that are abhorrent should be assumed to be the actions of the majority of the protestors, well, there's nothing I can say to disabuse you of that notion. You've decided that the Tea Party protestors are guilty until proven innocent, I guess.

  15. Tea Party events have evinced outpourings of hatred and more than a little racism time and time again. Yet you choose to buy into the idea that it's an isolated and very tiny fringe of the movement. Sorry. Your claims are the ones without merit.

    Sorry, but you're repeating this claim doesn't make it true. What outpourings of hatred and more than a little racism can you show evidence of (actual evidence, not reports from liberal bloggers?)

    Even before the Tea Party movement, this whole meme started during the campaign with claims that Sarah Palin was drawing out and promoting this hate filled, racist sentiment in the crowds. And yet I notice that no one here has commented on the link I inserted in an earlier comment, that the main claim that started that meme has been debunked by the Secret Service.

    Lies repeated often enough to become 'common knowledge' are not convincing to prove your assertion.

  16. OK, I missed that. I obviously don't support literacy tests for voting and historically that was with racist intent, but in this day and age isn't it actually racist to claim that literacy tests would disenfranchise black people? In the past, educational opportunities were restricted for blacks, but now that's not so and a claim that literacy tests would disenfranchise them is a claim that blacks are either unable or unwilling to learn to read.

  17. I'd like to bring up a point I remember trying to make a while back (and for which I received a great deal of flack at the time), when all the coverage of the Tea Parties were showing seas of white faces. The point is this: when your group is extremely homogenous as far as a given quality (race, gender, etc), it is always a good idea to have some honest introspection to make sure that your group is not actively hostile or particularly indifferent to that particular demographic. If your analysis shows that your movement is hostile to a particular group — well, change that. This is just a basic strategy of movement building. I have rarely ever seen an activist group where there was just coincidental exclusion of a particular race or gender; those that were successful in removing racial or gender or (pick another group) bias took active steps to remove the racist/sexist/etc elements from their movements, and to have a policy to be specifically inclusive. The one time this strategy does not make sense is if your group is specifically trying to exclude a demographic. For example, if you're building a progressive coalition, searching for hard-right allies isn't what you're going for.

    Anyway, when I said that the movement should look at why no people of color were aligning with them, and suggested that there is likely a reason people of color do not feel comfortable within the Tea Party groups, I was told that I was jumping to undeserved conclusions of racism. However, this sort of incident shows in pretty stark relief that there were *significant* elements that people of color and LGBT people would find extremely hostile.

  18. Where is the video of “crowds of tea partiers surging down the halls of Congress, screaming imprecations”, Kathy?

    It was reported by journalists and members of Congress who witnessed it. The Capitol police had to be called to remove the protesters who were banging on Barney Frank's office door and shouting slurs. If you believe the journalists and members of Congress who witnessed these actions were lying, so be it. I don't know what I can say about that.

  19. but in this day and age isn't it actually racist to claim that literacy tests would disenfranchise black people? In the past, educational opportunities were restricted for blacks, but now that's not so and a claim that literacy tests would disenfranchise them is a claim that blacks are either unable or unwilling to learn to read.

    No, it isn't actually racist to claim that literacy tests are racist and disenfranchising. Have you ever seen a literacy test, Christine — examples of the literacy tests black people before the civil rights movement had to take, and pass, as a condition of voting? I suggest you do a little googling.

    Additionally, literacy tests as a condition of voting are unconstitutional, and when applied unequally to blacks and no one else, are obviously racist in intent as well.

  20. to both kathy and CStanley, re: literacy tests

    Both in an historical and a current sense, it does behoove one to think about the racial implications and contexts of the idea of literacy tests. One can, for example, understand how there would be a huge automatic bristling to the idea among black people, even if, as you suggest, there were no difference between the literacy rates of white people and people of color (there of course are).

    However, I'd take another step backwards and ignore all that for a second, and think of what literacy tests would mean for our citizenry. Think about what groups of people tend to be less literate by testable standards, and think about the ideal of one citizen, one vote, and why that's the ideal. The right to vote is the say a poor person has in their own community's future. Rich, educated people tend to have lots of ways to get their voices heard; the poor and uneducated have the right to vote. This is why we should all be highly suspicious of those who try to limit access to voting in any way whatsoever. Those whom these efforts effect the most are also those who have the least means to have their voices heard otherwise. I truly believe that, even had slavery never existed, and even if these tests did not have the historical stigma they do, and even if we were in an entirley post-racial meritocracy, literacy tests would still be a bad idea, contrary to what the US is supposed to be all about.

    This makes no mention of test bias. For example, does a person with dislexia, or a blind person, or those with other disabilities have less of a right to vote than someone without those conditions? Who gets to make up this literacy test? To what grade level equivalency will we test? What sorts of “literacy” will be tested? Who will be in charge of making sure the test does not have the cultural biases we all know exist in most standardized tests? Will the test cost money? If so, how is that not a poll tax? If not, who will pay for its administration? Will people get paid for the time they have to take off work for this test?

    So I'd say literacy tests are a terrible idea. Looking at them without thinking about race is informative, but is also missing the big picture here — when this was proposed at the Tea Parties, there was one thing it was meant to mean, and we all know it: keep the Mexicans from voting.

  21. Excellent points, roro. Thank you.

  22. I'm going to attempt to respond to your comment with some personal thoughts, and hopefully they come across as they are intended.

    I think you make a reasonable point that when we find ourselves in a social group that over-represents a certain segment of society, it is useful to ask why. I've found myself asking this question is some of the various social circles in which I am involved. Sometimes it is intended–such as in your example of a left-wing group excluding right-wingers. But sometimes it is not intended, which can be perplexing. Personally, I think we tend to underestimate the cultural differences that keep us separated.

    To illustrate what I mean, let me give you an example that has nothing to do with race. When I walk into the small hardware store in the main street of the small town in which I live, I immediately feel a little uncomfortable. Why? I suppose it's because I'm a white-collar guy, raised in a white-collar family. It's might be mostly unjustified, but I feel that I have little in common with the gruffy-haired guy who asks me if he can help me find something. He dresses differently than I do, he talks differently with different mannerisms, he listens to different music, and he spends his work-days doing very different things than I do. Don't get me wrong. It's not that I look down on him at all. In fact, it's just the opposite–I feel inferior to him when I'm in his domain. My social circles are different than his. I wish it weren't so, and if I were a better man I would probably do more to change that, but it's true.

    Now, if I can see cultural differences even within a single race, the differences become even more great when we add race to the picture. I live near a medium sized city that is predominately white. Why is it that black people tend not to live here? Is it because we are racist here? Additionally, there are very few black people who enter my profession. If you multiply that by where I live, the result is that I can go weeks at work without seeing a single black person. I see plenty of Indians and Asians, but almost no African Americans. Are people in my profession racist? I think the conclusion is that cultural and economic differences play a huge role that we tend to overlook.

    Now, to end my ramblings (sorry, it's late) and bring this back to the Tea Party. Certainly members of the tea party come from all walks of life, but at its core is rural (or suburban, at least), white, middle-age to elderly men. There is more than skin color that separates most white, middle-age, rural men and urban, young, African Americans. I don't know if it's political correct to say it, but there is a huge cultural, political, and economic chasm between the two groups, generally speaking. So it doesn't surprise me that African Americans wouldn't feel comfortable joining that group, even without considering the occasional racist among that group.

    With that said, to bring it back to your original point, certainly it is worthwhile for the Tea Party, and any group that finds themselves unintentionally excluding a particular group, to ask what they can do to bridge those cultural divides. Some of them can't be bridged if doing so would compromise the position of the group (ie. stands of illegal or legal immigration, gay rights, etc.), but it's worth considering whether there are non-essential cultural trends within your group that is unnecessarily turning away certain segments of society, and then working to jettison those unproductive trends. So, I'd say that the vast majority of people in the tea party are not racist, but that doesn't absolve them of all responsibility on the matter: they should be asking themselves why their message and/or culture is not resonating with minorities and working to change that.

    Secondarily, we should point out also that it is a two-way street: we should be all be careful not to exclude ourselves from a particular group just because it includes people with whom we don't normally associate.

    And with that, good night.

  23. adelinesdad –

    Thanks so much for your comment. I think it illustrates and expounds upon my point in a lot of great ways.

    I think one of the more telling (even if unintentional) sentences you wrote is this:

    My social circles are different than his. I wish it weren't so, and if I were a better man I would probably do more to change that, but it's true.

    First, I don't think it makes you a “better” or “worse” person that you choose to socialize with people like you. I do think it's important to note that if you do wish to change that, you absolutely can. When we start to look at our lives and notice who we do and do not tend to take an interest in (and this goes for those who simply choose to have few friends instead of many, as well), there is definitely value in realizing that people from other groups (socioeconomic, racial, gender, ability, interest) are not the ones choosing or not choosing us, we are choosing or not choosing them. This realization can be valuable even though friendship is a two-way street. In so many ways, we custom design our social circle, and it tends to look pretty much like we intend it to. This is the case whether we are openly hostile to people who are different from ourselves or just indifferent. Most friendships require active participation, and active seeking. From the point of view of social circles, well, we all have individual preferences, and that's ok. Movement building is, of course, quite different than figuring out who would be fun to have a beer with.

    Where I'm going with this, as far as the larger discussion, is probably obvious by now. I can see no reason why black people or Mexican people would be less likely to care about the deficit or about healthcare than white people, and there are lots of non-urban, middle-class people of color out there. I do know that seeing the first black president on a sign painted up as an African witch doctor while hearing a keynote speaker talking about bringing back a test originally designed specifically for the purpose of disenfranchising people of color would be something that would be construed as actively hostile to a black person. Even giving those tea partiers who have these signs and who cheer for said keynote speaker the *hugest* benefit of a doubt and saying that perhaps they are not purposefully being racists — even then, it's abundantly clear that they don't care enough about how these things would be perceived by a person of color to cease from being racially offensive. Blatant disregard for the feelings or fears shared by a particular racial group (or gender or ability etc) shows very obviously that that group is not welcome here, whether that message is intentional or not.

    In other words: I don't know how many individual Tea Partiers are racists, but heck, racist strategies are clearly welcome at these rallies. I think it is much more than mere coincidence that so few people of color want to associate with them.

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