Jon Ponder | March 21, 2010
Growing increasingly desperate as the House vote on a reconciliation measure in the health-care reform bill approaches, Republican House members addressed a group of tea baggers on Capitol Hill yesterday, stoking their fears about reform with lies and distortions and then unleashing the mob which had become so enraged that they stopped bothering to conceal the true intentions of their “movement”:
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 ‘nigger.’ And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) 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.
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.”
Asked if he wanted an apology from the group of Republican lawmakers who had addressed the crowd and, in many ways, played on their worst fears of health care legislation, the Democratic Party, and the president, Clyburn replied:
“A lot of us have been saying for a long time that much of this, much of this is not about health care a 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.”
Here’s another take, via Talking Points Memo:
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 Cannon House office building.
“People have been just downright mean,” Lewis added.
And that wasn’t an isolated incident. Early this afternoon, standing outside a Democratic whip meeting in the Longworth House office building, I watched Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) make his way out the door, en route to the neighboring Rayburn building. As he rounded the corner toward the exit, wading through a huge crowd of tea partiers and other health care protesters, an elderly white man screamed “Barney, you faggot”–a line that caused dozens of his confederates to erupt in laughter…
Shortly thereafter, the same group of people surrounded Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) as he entered a first-floor elevator. Above the cacophony, I heard one man call Waxman a “crook” and a “liar.”
The spitting incident involved Rep. Cleaver, who is also a Methodist minister and who was active in the civil rights movement. The congressman was escorted to safety by the U.S. Capitol Police, who, according to early reports, also arrested the tea bagger. Later, the New York Times reported that no arrest had been made.
Last night, someone threw a brick through the window of the district office of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Rules Committee.
(This article originally appeared in Pensito Review)