The Morning After: Tea Party’s Spitting, Racial Epithets, Gay Slurs Linger
March 21, 2010
(ChattahBox)— On Saturday, a group of unhinged tea party protesters menaced and harassed three Black Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a hero of the civil rights movement, hurling the N-word at them as they walked to the Capitol to hear President Obama’s final speech on healthcare reform. One black lawmaker was spat upon. Inside the Longworth House office building, teapartiers shouted the homophobic slur “faggot” and “homo” to Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), as the group laughed. As the unruly tea party mob moved through the office building they banged on the office doors of Democratic lawmakers. When Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) tried to enter an elevator, the tea party mob surrounded the lawmaker shouting “crook” and “liar.”
Several Republican lawmakers, when asked about the shocking racism on Sunday, including Rep. Mike Pence (IN) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (OH) condemned the teapartier’s actions, but not Rep. Devin Nunes (CA). He condoned their right to “smear” Democratic lawmakers, because of the Democrats’ “crazy totalitarian tactics.”
According to the account given by the Huffington Post:
“A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) had been spat on by a protester. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement was called a ‘ni–er.’ And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mo.) was called a “faggot,” as protesters shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president’s speech, shrugged off the incident.”
The Talking Points Memo also reported on the mob bigotry:
“Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Andre Carson (D-IN) related a particularly jarring encounter with a large crowd of protesters screaming “kill the bill”… and punctuating their chants with the word “nigger.” Standing next to Lewis, emerging from a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, Carson said people in the crowd yelled, “kill the bill and then the N-word” several times, while he and Lewis were exiting the Canon House office building.”
As Rep. Frank attempted to exit the Longworth building “an elderly white man screamed “Barney, you faggot”–a line that caused dozens of his confederates to erupt in laughter.”
Roll Call quoted from Rep. Carson who walked alongside Rep. Lewis, as enraged teapartiers shouted the N-word multiple times. ‘“They were shouting the N-word,” Carson said. “It was like a page out of a time machine.” Carson said Capitol Police surrounded the group and escorted them across the street to the Capitol.”
The reactions from the harassed Democratic lawmakers acknowledged that Republican leadership was partly responsible for whipping the teapartiers into a frenzied mob with falsehoods and fearmongering:
“I’m disappointed at a unwillingness to be just civil,” Frank said. “[T]he objection to the health care bill has become a proxy for other sentiments.” “I do think the leaders of the movement, and this was true of some of the Republicans last year, that they think they are benefiting from this rancor. I mean there are a couple who–you know, Michele Bachmann’s rhetoric is inflammatory as well as wholly baseless. And I think there are people there, a few that encourage it,” added Frank. “If this was my cause, and I saw this angry group yelling and shouting and being so abusive to people, I would ask them to please stop it,” Frank concluded. “I think they do more harm than good.”
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) told reporters that the abusive behavior and racial slurs reminded him of the civil rights demonstrations in the 60s. “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,” he said.
Clyburn went on to add that when power is taken away from the powerful to help the helpless, there is always strong opposition:
“A lot of us have been saying for a long time that much of this, much of this is not about health care at all. And I think a lot of those people today demonstrated that this is not about health care… it is about trying to extend a basic fundamental right to people who are less powerful.”
“People have been just downright mean,” said Rep. Lewis who was nearly beaten to death during a 1965 march.
Rep. Cleaver’s office issued a statement last night addressing the incident, in which a teapartier spat at him:
“For many of the members of the CBC [Congressional Black Caucus], like John Lewis and Emanuel Cleaver who worked in the civil rights movement, and for Mr. Frank who has struggled in the cause of equality, this is not the first time they have been spit on during turbulent times.” [...] “This is not the first time the Congressman has been called the “n” word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans. That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name calling and spitting. He looks forward to taking a historic vote on health care reform legislation tomorrow, for the residents of the Fifth District of Missouri and for all Americans. He believes deeply that tomorrow’s vote is, in fact, a vote for equality and to secure health care as a right for all. Our nation has a history of struggling each time we expand rights. Today’s protests are no different, but the Congressman believes this is worth fighting for.”
Like the morning after a drunken rowdy night of mayhem, the violent, inflammatory and derogatory behavior toward African-American U.S. Congressmen and an openly gay lawmaker, will linger long after the tea party protesters finally pack up and go home.
(Update: Right-wing lawmaker Rep. Steve King (R-IA) refused to condemn the teapartier’s behavior. “I just don’t think it’s anything,” King said. “To focus on a few incidents is “embellishing something that is determined to undermine the people.”
King, along with Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) helped whip the tea party crowd into a blind frenzy on Saturday. Gohmert told the crowd to “remember the Alamo” and that the only difference between that fight and the health care fight is that “if we lose this battle millions of Americans are going to die.”
Photo Credit: CJBrenchley’s Flickr Photostream