Abusive, derogatory and even racist behavior directed at House
Democrats by Tea Party protesters on Saturday left several lawmakers in
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.) relayed word to reporters that
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-M.D.) had been spit on by a protestor (the
protestor was reportedly
arrested by Capitol Hill police). Rep. John Lewis (D-G.A.) a hero
of the civil rights movement was called a "n----r." 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."
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