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).