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Tea Partiers show their true colors, spitting on one congressman, and shouting slurs at others


U.S. Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (U.S. House)

With the final vote on healthcare reform scheduled in the U.S. House of Representatives less than twenty-four hours away, Tea Party protesters in Washington, D.C. showed their true colors today.

As President Obama continued rallying support for his historic healthcare legislation, the centerpiece of his domestic agenda, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) faced rowdy protesters while making their way to the House for a vote.

Kansas City’s former mayor, and current representative in the fifth congressional district, Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), was walking with members of the CBC earlier when one protester deliberately spat on him.

Cleaver’s office released a statement, thanking the Capitol Police for their quick response. The protester was arrested after assaulting the congressman , but Cleaver has opted not to press charges.

Cleaver was not the only member of the CBC harassed today. Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC) and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) faced “abusive heckling.” Some Tea Partiers screamed racial obscenities. Cleaver, who had been walking behind Lewis, specifically heard the n-word. “It was a chorus,” he said.

Jasmine Pasley, Co-Chair of the Young Adult Committee and Co-Advisor of the Missouri State Youth and College Division at the local Kansas City chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was displeased with the incident.  She had this to say to the Tea Party protesters:

Spitting on another person solved what for you? Did your agenda get ahead? Did you prove your point and gain another follower for your cause? The distasteful act did nothing for the advancement of your agenda.

Meanwhile, Congressman Barney Frank, an openly gay Democrat from Massachusetts was harassed by protesters screaming derogatory slurs with “lisp-y” voices. He said a crowd of a couple of hundred shouted that he was a “homo.” The Huffington Post reports that the f-word was also shouted, and a CNN producer also heard the obscenity.

Frank wasn't too upset about the mess.  In fact, he says he is simply disappointed by the lack of civility in the healthcare debate, and by the fact that the issue has become a proxy for ugly sentiments.

In the statement released this afternoon, Cleaver’s office said that this was not the first time he and his colleagues had faced challenges during turbulent times. After all, he and his fellow members of the CBC had worked in the civil rights movement, and Congressman Frank has also “struggled in the cause of equality.”

Cleaver says the nation faces similar challenges every time people seek to expand their rights. The fight over healthcare is no different: “this is worth fighting for.”

Tay Triggs, the Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at Missouri Western State University (MWSU) in St. Joseph, says she agrees that "adversity and difficult times tend to bring out the worst in some people."  Still, it's unfortunate that these sad incidents still happen.  "No matter what these leaders of color have accomplished some will still deduce them to a skin color."

Although the actions of a few should not necessarily reflect poorly on the entire Tea Party, this is not the first incident that has caused some to ponder the role race plays in the motivation of the Tea Party movement.

Last summer, a protester's sign featured a picture of President Obama, designed to look like an African witch doctor.  In response, Jimmy Carter, former president, has stated that racism has played a role in some of the challenges facing President Obama's proposals.

Triggs agrees.  "I would argue that... people many times search for opportunities and causes that will allow them to perpetuate hatred and bigotry. This will always be the case unless those with power will, in an unwavering way, be leaders and not cowards."

GOP Chairman Michael Steele, on the other hand, accused President Carter of playing the "race card."

Pasley, who was actively involved in the student chapter of the NAACP at MWSU, even serving as the president of the group, doesn't think the "race card" matters here:

The racial obscenites that were tossed around were disgraceful. It painted the Tea Partiers in no better light than the individuals they harassed. The climate for hate groups has been one of fear, since the election of President Barack Obama. When fear is the driving force it is easy for people's actions to get out of hand.

Congressman Frank says he is disappointed that Republicans have done little to distance themselves from the Tea Party movement; and the GOP has yet to respond to or condemn the incident.  "Where are the comments from the [CBC's] Republican counterparts?" asks Pasley, who also wonders what ever happened to "United we Stand."  It's time "to reach across the aisle, across the neighborhood, across the city, across the state and across the nation and stand together for what is right and [oppose] what is wrong... we must be able to find common ground," she says.

Despite Pasley's sentiment, Democrats are denouncing today's inappropriate protester behavior, and they're calling on their colleagues across the aisle to do the same.

This article was last updated on Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 11:27 PM (CST).


  • Maria 5 years ago

    I think it is really unfair to label all the people at the tea parties this way. I am Hispanic and have been to several of the tea parties. The way these people acted was STUPID and bad for the movement. They are clearly ignorant and deserve no part of the tea party movement. But for the media to blow this up and for people to label all the tea partiers this way is wrong. It is like saying that every liberal is a communist hippie. You can't generalize a whole movement because of the stupid actions of some of the members.

  • lest you be judged 5 years ago

    yeah, I'm reading a lot of this 'don't judge all teabaggers by the actions of a crazed few" excuse today.
    of course, that kind of logic hasn't stopped teabaggers from absurdly labeling all democrats, moderates, and the administration as communist hippies, cancerous progressives, marxists, nazis, totalitarians...
    so teabaggers, don't go pretending to be all sensitive and hurt on us now.
    when you lie down with the glenn beck demagogue dog, you wake up with fleas.

  • d 5 years ago

    It goes to show that racism is still very much alive regardless of whether the whole movement should be held accountable or not

  • Balance Beam 5 years ago

    I would be more inclined to believe that a "staged" event took place with a willing and sycophantic media ready to send riders in all directions with the latest propaganda.

    On the other hand, maybe there were some indecent people at the event. I personally have witnessed none of this lewd behavior at any event that I attended.

    Certainly, the good and decent people of ACORN and SEIU would never, never stage some lewdness that could be blamed on the tea party event. NEVER!

    And the same would never kick to the ground one of their own brothers, call him the N word, and bash his property like at the event in St. Louis.

    Nor would they bite off a finger or threaten to follow them home or any of the other assaults that were made public at other events.

  • Thomas Paine 5 years ago

    Every video I have seen of the tea party protests show people with racist literature, saying racist things or showing racist pictures. The heads of the tea party movement had been videotaped saying extremely racist things. Plus, if you really examine taxes and all - federal taxes have decreased substantially since President Obama took office.

  • Brian 5 years ago

    Every movement, on the left or right, has their whackjobs. I doubt any of the other protestors there condoned the actions of their peers. If that were the case, i would argue that ACORN is nothing but a contemptible group of child prostitution enablers and PETA is full of zoo-destroying crooks. The argument and implications ofthis so-called "article" are nothing but an attempt from the left to vilify what is, by and large, a peaceful, tolerant group of people voicing legitimate concerns about the direction our country is heading in. As for taxes going down, that's simply ignorant bliss or plain stupidity. You can't spend money like this administration has been and not have tax hikes.

  • Balance Beam 5 years ago

    I also see men wearing $1000 suits walking between the air conditioned buildings, Rolex's gleaming in the sunlight, making their way into a chamber to cast a vote that will enslave the population of the U.S. for generations if it they can get it passed.

    Way to go Congressional Black Caucus. You fought so hard in the 1960's to free your people when you were marching with Martin. I think he was a believer that our Rights came from God. Now, you want to embarrass yourselves by following someone who believes that government gives those rights to men.

    You can't serve God and mammon.

  • multicultural R US 5 years ago

    unfortunately for those 'peaceful and tolerant' teabaggers, it doesn't help the cause when movement leaders are calling for elimination of 'cancerous progressives' (Beck) and reinstatement of unconstitutional Jim Crow laws (Tancredo). So it's not like this is the first time we've heard 'baggers spewing hatred or anything.
    And for the record, the day that 'cancerous progressives' are eliminated is the day they're all in internment camps. Which may be exactly what's on Beck's mind.

  • d 5 years ago

    I don't really understand why you are attacking the article or the author for that matter. It seems mr. Herrington gave a fairly straight forward account of the incident. And while you dems may disagree with the tea party, calling them teabaggers is no more an example of civility than the racists at the protest

  • Lez Chaney 5 years ago

    Teabrainers. It just goes to show the mentality of this crowd. They're a bunch of low-class, trailer-trash racist rednecks. It's just too bad that the republicans have been able to get these people so 'riled up' with their fearmongering and spreading of false information.

    Wake up teabrainers! Republicans are NOT your friend - they just use ignorant people like you to move forward their agenda of exploiting the American citizens to help their corporate cronies!

  • Drew Denny - National Canoeing Examiner 5 years ago

    I honestly had no idea that racism was still so rampant in this country, as indicated when we elected an educated, well spoken and focused president. I can only hope that the majority of the racism that is left dies with the baby boomers so we can finally move on.

  • acerbic 5 years ago

    Here's a little known fact: these teabaggers called themselves teabaggers before anyone else did.

  • 8th-generation-american 5 years ago

    Progressives/liberals/socialists have been trying to make this country like the countries all our relatives left to seek freedom from gov't interference in our lives. This health care bill is just another step in the gov't take over of our lives.
    P/L/S think that the gov't knows what's best for you and thank you Obama for bankrupting my country.

  • 8th-generation-american 5 years ago

    Progressives/liberals/socialists have been trying to make this country like the countries all our relatives left to seek freedom from gov't interference in our lives. This health care bill is just another step in the gov't take over of our lives.
    P/L/S think that the gov't knows what's best for you and thank you Obama for bankrupting my country.

  • Luke - KC Progressive Examiner 5 years ago

    Progressives and liberals are not the same thing. And if you want to compare either group to socialists, they're different too.

    You can't let people on the right or the left mislead you (they both do it) into believing that Democrats have a monopoly on the progressive movement.

    Please refer to Progressivism 101: Differences between progressivism and liberalism for more details.

    If you really believe progressives want to make this country like the countries our forefathers came from, you're sincerely mistaken. True progressives believe in empowering the people. Conservatives believe in limited government (though they don't necessarily believe in empowering the people), and liberals believe in the opposite. You cannot confuse liberals with progressives, because progressivism transcends the traditional left-right ideological spectrum.

  • 8th-generation-american 5 years ago

    Your saying progressives are against this HC bill since it demands that you buy insurance or else the IRS comes after you.
    Are progressives against the gov't bankrupting this country? If so why aren't the so-called progressives complaining?

  • Chris 5 years ago

    So is there a correction available since this story seems to be based on lies? There were no arrests, according to the Capitol Police. Despite a $100,000 reward, no one seems to be able to find the n-word being used despite the numerous videos available (including those taken by the people walking with Cleaver). Is there any proof these events actually happened and, if not, when will the correction be available?

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