March 20th, 2010
08:19 PM ET
5 years ago

Protesters hurl slurs and spit at Democrats

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Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis was the target of racial slurs on Saturday.
Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis was the target of racial slurs on Saturday.

Washington (CNN) - Civil rights icon and veteran Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, said anti-health care bill protesters Saturday repeatedly yelled the "N" word at him as he left a heath care meeting and walked to the Capitol.

"I haven't seen heard anything like this in more than 40 years, maybe 45." Lewis said. "Since the march from Selma to Montgomery really."

"Yeah, but it's okay," Lewis added. "I've faced this before. So, it reminded me of the 60's. There's a lot of downright hate and anger and people are just being downright mean."

The incident was confirmed by Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, who was walking with Lewis at the time. Protesters were yelling, "'kill the bill, kill the bill' and the 'N' word several times," Carson said.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, released a statement late Saturday saying he too was called the "N" word as he walked to the Capitol for a vote and that he was spat on by one protestor who was arrested by U.S. Capitol Police. Cleaver declined to press charges against the man, the statement said.

Protesters also hurled anti-gay comments at Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, who is openly gay, as he left the same health care meeting that Lewis attended in a House office building.

A CNN producer overheard the word "faggot" yelled at Frank several times in the lobby of the Longworth building. Frank said he heard someone yell "homo" at him.

"I'm disappointed," Frank said. "There's an unwillingness to be civil."

Frank, who said he rarely hears such slurs anymore, said the health care issue has become "the proxy for a lot of other sentiments. A lot of which are perfectly reasonable but some of which are kind of ugly."


Filed under: Barney Frank • Health care • John Lewis • Popular Posts
soundoff (303 Responses)
  1. laura

    This is not about health care insurance reform-this is about ignorance,hatred,and being sore losers of the presidential election. I knew all this time that the so called tea – baggers were just mad at the election results last November and they are the fringe group of the repub conservatives-some are just really angry sore loser Fox watchers.

    March 21, 2010 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  2. time4change9

    Not surprising. When logic fails the repugnicans will resort to rascist epithets and threats of violence.

    March 21, 2010 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  3. tracy

    I blame the ugly display by protesters Sat on members of congress on republicans. It started with the lie about death panels back in the summer. Now maybe people will know what I have known all along. The tea party movement is about racism.

    March 21, 2010 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  4. joan carney

    People have every right to be pissed off out here in the good old U.S.A.. What have we been told about this health insurance bill, nothing. How is it going to affect us and why are they trying to rush it through. Something doesn't smell right here. Maybe they need some of the money for the actual health plan but maybe they need it for other things like the ongoing, never ending war that is so G_d D__m expensive. How will it affect Medicare and will Nancy Pilosi please explain this to someone somewhere without using her smiling face. Our government needs to get it's s__t together and stop lying to the people because we are sick of it.

    March 21, 2010 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  5. Albert R. K. . L.A., CA

    This confirms what we all expected all along, that race diven nuts are behind all the noise. The good news is that come Nov. they can only vote once, just like in 2008, and that means they are a minority - something they are having a very hard time dealing with.

    March 21, 2010 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  6. ron storteboom

    I'll say it again - a quote from Margaret Thatcher - "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of 'somebody else's money'". What democrats don't want to admit is that they have over extended their mandate - the mandate was to reel in federal government spending - which the republicans screwed up. The democrats have done the exact opposite and will double the national debt in only 8 years. The republicans deserved to be ousted for the same offenses and the democrats will suffer the same demise. The people want, and deserve, a financially responsible government. Both parties have failed to deliver. When are we, as a people, going to embrace a party that resembles our beliefs in a much weaker federal government that is focused on national defense (only mandate of the federal government in the U.S. Constitution) and leave the socialist attributes to the states - as was the original law of the land? America's decline will be reported in history books for hundreds of years to follow. The report will cite a government that had extended entitlements far beyond what the tax payers were willing and able to afford. It will most probably also contain a litany regarding trial lawyers that made communities incapable to function due to the fear of litigation.

    March 21, 2010 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  7. shd1963

    Yeah, right. I'm sure that two black guys would never try to invoke the 'N' word in their politics. Nuh uh, never. I bet they saw a bunch of guys in white hoods too! Probably a noose hanging somewhere and a burning cross. I bet these two guys claim there were a bunch of skinheads outside their speaking location and a truck with a 30 foot chain hooked to the bumper. Yeah, that's it. These guys would never try to play the race card, no.. never.

    March 21, 2010 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  8. Angie

    The tea baggers are nothing but a bunch of whiny, racist Republicans. For the sake of America, I wish they will just go away.

    March 21, 2010 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  9. wes

    Anybody think this sounds a little fishy. Sounds someone planted in the crowd to me. Any tea partier I know would tell these people to shut up. I'm surprised the media would run with this.

    March 21, 2010 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  10. Donna

    What has happened to Democracy? To mediation and doing what is right for the American People? It is gone. Now it is all about "I am a democrat," "I am republican." Stop this! It is about me who is out of work at 65 and I need a job....I need health care. What is wrong with making sure every American has health care? This is is not a country where Republicans are better than Democrats! It is about whether our citizens all have the same care. You should not have to be weatlhy to deserve to get good health care. I need health care as much as any member of Congress. STOP THIS! This is about Americans. Not about being Republican or Democrat!

    March 21, 2010 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  11. Marcus

    Well the truth has finally come out. Let there be no confusion, this was never about Health Care. It was never about the Deficit. This TEA PARTY nonsense was all about racism. It is about who our President is and the fact that a black man holds the highest office in the land. They had their Voo-Doo signs and their Hitler mustaches and they liked walking around with firearms as though to send a message. The only thing that was missing were the white sheets. Thank God (or whoever) that enough Americans believe in "Evolution" and realize that the species must "evolve or die". I wonder how many "people of color" were protesting against Health Care Reform at these rallies?

    March 21, 2010 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  12. scott from Michigan

    Very sad. Just another example of the types of people who exist on the Far Right. No suprise. The Palins and Cheneys ect fan the flames of Hatred and divisive behavior constantly. GOP is a sick backward party. Sad

    March 21, 2010 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  13. Mel Mesick

    This is a sad testimony to those who have been contesting the assistance of those in need. The spitting, the profanity, the slurs, are an indication of a vulgar and vile behavior which a just, kind and gentle society seeks to overcome.

    March 21, 2010 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  14. w1988

    hmm...i wonder where all the conservatives are commenting on this...

    March 21, 2010 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  15. pikerover

    I wonder how many 'protesters' were bussed in.

    March 21, 2010 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  16. No longer on the fence

    Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    March 21, 2010 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  17. J.V.Hodgson

    Sounds ro me like the "Tea Party" is just a polite way to reconstitute the ideals of the Ku Klux Klan which were equally as disgraceful than these ?people??!
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    March 21, 2010 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  18. Andrew

    So, this story may be helping to confirm that the hatred in this country over the last year is truly not about President Obama's policies; instead, it is about his race. Why else would the "N" word be a part of the healthcare debate? It's because of the "N"egro in the White House, isn't that really the issue Joe Wilson, Sarah Palin, Glenn Back, Rush Limbaugh, KKK and the rest of the racist White Americans disguised as loyal and patriotic citizens? America's hypocrisy and bigotry is the reason America is so detested around the world. It mistreats all of its non-White citizens – the very peolple who built this country. Fortunately, President Obama doesn't need America to validate him – America can't even validate itself. It's just a country full of bitter, angry, scared little white people.

    March 21, 2010 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  19. Richard

    Do wee need any more sign that the Republicans are just as racist as they have ever been. Why the supposedly pro-life party is opposed to giving life in the form of medical coverage for all Americans, especially children, why the supposedly fiscally conservative party is against doing something that will save so much money, is beyond me. But why so many uninsured people still vote Republican is even more beyond me.

    March 21, 2010 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  20. brenda

    Its a sad day in America when its citizen's are so angry at the President and his officials, that they behave in such a horrible manner. But the gov must understand, these people have lost their jobs, their livelihoods and now were about to have controlled health care. The fact is The American government is back stabbing its citizen's. WE the People Elected the officials, we the people should be the ones to vote on the health care plan. America has now become a divided and severely corrupt country. There are so many angry citizens. The bottom line is, the Whitehouse officials are back stabbers and theives. They steal from their own people. Just from listening to my neighbors voicing their anger and even talking about sueing their own country, I fear for the worst uprising against our government that America has ever seen. I pray it doesn't come to pass. Government controlled health care is one of the worst things Obama could ever do, besides his failed bail out plan.

    March 21, 2010 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  21. Jeff of Peoria

    .....unwillingness to be civil. These guys are shoving something down the throat of teh American people and he suggests we ACT CIVIL. WOW

    March 21, 2010 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  22. shon

    News please.

    March 21, 2010 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  23. brenlee@optonline.net

    I don't think it shocks anyone to see that the hard-right Tea Party psychos are – at their core – racist, intolerant and abusive to the point of violence. They keep trying to paint President Obama and his administration's policies as extremist and "socialism", when it is obvious to any reasonable, thinking person that the Tea Party/hard-right loonies are the true extremists. Their basic position is one of abject greed and selfishness, and always has been. Back in the 90's, Newt Gingrich was correct in defining the issue as one of values – the problem is that he and his "contract with America” compatriots, just like the current Tea Partiers, were clearly on the wrong side of the moral equation. They are against anything that actually helps people. They are nothing more than the American Taliban. Stories like this one only serve to confirm this blatantly obvious reality

    March 21, 2010 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  24. Tom

    This should be a bigger story. The so-called "tea-party" is showing its true colors. This is not a political movement fighting for financial rights, it is a hate group seeking to selfishly deny government aid to some of those who need it most. Republicans are fomenting that hate for their own political benefit. You're right, Rep. Lewis, this does sound like the old segregation argument, doesn't it? And you know who's gonna be on the wrong side of history... again? You guessed it...

    March 21, 2010 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  25. Jay Hunter

    This is the political right in America today. They can't let the national discussion focus on the issues because there is no substance in their platform. Their policies have failed, are failing, and will fail in the future. They definitely don't want to talk about that.

    So instead they use distraction, vitriol, and hatred, and call it "political debate". They organize meetings on television and call it "grass roots".

    What sucks is that there's a lot of merit to the ideas of conservatism. Too bad neither party adheres to them.

    March 21, 2010 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
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