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. Paul NYC

    You expect any better from this Tea crowd? I don't. Their rhetoric, fed to them by their patron saint Glenn Beck, is as full of racist and bigoted statements as it is devoid of logic. Ask any of them specific questions about what they are angry about and they will merely spew talking points rather than answers - most of which are outright lies. The strange thing about these Tea buffoons is they come across as right wing hippies, having their fun little protest rallies and whooping it up in a bacchanalia of misinformation. I can hardly wait to see what their "Woodstock" will be. Come to think of it, it already happened. It was called Kristallnacht.

    March 21, 2010 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  2. leekinny

    Bravado driven nationalism that disguises hate in an illusion of the defense of mom and apple pie does not improve its immorality. Haven't we had enough of lies, fear, and distortions used by the GOP in order to move the American people into a direction that's reprehensible.

    March 21, 2010 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  3. Doug Parker

    Why do you think we care about your rights when you are taking ours away. The majority does not want this healthcare bill .What part of that don;t you understand? VOTE NO DUMMIES< or you will be RULED by Conservatives for the next 20 years!!! Love Dug!

    March 21, 2010 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  4. Michael J. Warner, MMCS(SS) U.S.N. ret.

    Bigotry is alive and well in the Tea Party. The party of Greed, Fear, Ignorance, and Hate.

    March 21, 2010 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  5. Former Republican

    These teaparty people disgust me. It's obvious that they are nothing more than a front for the Klu Klux Klan – and it's equally disgusting to see the Republican party fall at the feet of these people. It started with the rumor of John McCain's "illegitimate black baby" story, and now they've just gone all in with the KKK Tea Party. I will never vote Republican again. I'm done.

    The Tea Party thinks they represent American, and they do- the America of the 1950's. I can only hope this is the dying gasp of an ugly demographic that never accepted that all men are created equal. We don't need racists like this in our body politic.

    March 21, 2010 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  6. Polystyrene

    This is the definition of the tea party: Bigots. They're only goal is to defame and destroy those they oppose even though the democrats and liberals are trying to help everybody in america and pay down our foreign debts which the conservatives left us from 1994-2006.

    March 21, 2010 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  7. James R. McDonagh

    To Rep. Lewis, Carson, & Cleaver I would like to tell you how sorry I am that you have to put up with this behavior: its not right. A group of people without any manners who think that they behave aggressively because of they don't want any action on a problem that needs to be addressed are not what the country needs.

    As I understand the health reform is that if nothing is changed the cost will be greater than if there is no change. In fact, over ten years the health reform bill will save $150,000,000,000±.

    Forget that the system is Mediocre, Mendacious, Incompetent, and corrupt: all government bureaus are to some extent, including but not limited to, congress, supreme court, administration, FBI, CIA, USDA, etc.

    The objective is to expose it when found.

    As to the health reform: when in the USAF I had an officer who instructed me, "Do something, even if its wrong."

    March 21, 2010 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  8. Sandra Fefes

    This kind of behavior is totally unacceptable in the United States of America. The people who incite this type of hatred and anger are the true "domestic" terrorists and will destroy this country and what it stands for if they are allowed to escalate their bad behavior. I am 65 years old and I am truly ashamed of what is happening with hate groups in this country. Whatever happened to civil discourse? Sadly, many of these folks are totally uneducated except for the right-wing bigots they listen to on the radio and tv.

    March 21, 2010 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  9. FourMoreYears

    This kind of behavior exposes the protesters for what they truly are. There is nothing magical going on – just a dig-in-the-heels resistance to social change. 100 years ago, these same people would've protested women's suffrage. 50 years ago, they would've protested civil rights. Now it's health reform. When they get proved wrong – again – they'll crawl back into their holes until the next great 'threat' to our country.

    March 21, 2010 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  10. Fred

    What is going on in this country, my oh my!

    March 21, 2010 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  11. Bed time for Raygun

    Dont worry,it was just Dick Armey from Texas and hes such a nice guy.

    March 21, 2010 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  12. Gary

    This issue isn't about medical care. It's about Race.The behavior of those people using the 'n' word and spitting on them is despicable. They should be arrested and tried for assult. I really thought we had come a long way in race relations with our fellow americans, but i guess not. i bet the republicans in congress won't speak out against this either. How can human beings act like this. We are all on this planet together. I would like to see the reaction, if someone spit on Boehner. There would be an outrage across america.

    March 21, 2010 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  13. Bubba J

    Not to excuse the uncivilized remarks, but why is the focus on that rather than perhaps the reason WHY those remarks were made: voters are extremely passionate about the health reform bill. As a result protesters are likely to be more than passionate. Why do our legislators not get that? This article is pathetic; all is does is focus on name-calling. Who cares – voters are angry ... and IF the measure passes it is only going to get worse ... MUCH worse.

    March 21, 2010 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  14. Kevin

    Google did this story much better. These were Tea Party protestors and securioty details had to toss elected officials into their cars for their personal safety. Knew these Tea Party types would should their total hatred someday. Someone whould take their guns.

    March 21, 2010 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  15. josh

    It's really sad. We've got to respect each other people, or we're no better than the folks in countries that blow themselves up to achieve a political end...

    good story though, cnn.

    March 21, 2010 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  16. Eric

    FOX News is not covering this anywhere, go search there site. No surprise there.

    March 21, 2010 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  17. perry chamberlain

    this is the true color of the tea bagger party, a group of uneducated, ignorant, illiterate, racist, thugs.
    I revel in the joy knowing how thoroughly pissed off this will make these right wing extremist fanatics.
    this bill makes my year.
    Sorry to hear about their LOSS.
    Boo Hoo.............waaaaaaaaaaaa

    March 21, 2010 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  18. Bob Wilson

    That's just the Republican Party being themselves. Most of them are uneducated and low income people (because most people who have college degree's understand how to treat others with respect). These people only want one race and party in control an they are willing to lie, distort, yell, show their true feelings for people of all minorities and even kill. These people say they are Christians, but don't never act Christ like when dealing with mankind. We just need to continue to pray for these lost souls; whom think that the world should be and look exactly like them.

    March 21, 2010 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  19. rusticnut

    Hard to believe. Makes you wonder if their beef is with the health care bill or Obama. Demonstrating is fine but this is over the line. They have lost all credibility with me. Why do I keep thinking, "tea party"?

    March 21, 2010 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  20. Brian

    So... all these protests are taped by the news stations. Let's see some video or hear some audio of these incidents.

    March 21, 2010 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  21. BlueIn Idaho

    Typical conservatives. True colors showing, This behavior is instigated by the hate mongers, Hannity, Beck, Ingraham, and most other hate wing crack pots.

    March 21, 2010 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  22. Awaal Oastad

    I don't think that these protesters are actully humans. I am wondering which party actually harbors these thugs..... Shame on those party members....

    – A

    March 21, 2010 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  23. debbie

    So what is happening to this country?! It looks like I was reading something about a third world country...... TRASHY PEOPLE KEEP YOUR FOUL LANGUAGE AND SPIT TO YOURSELF!

    March 21, 2010 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  24. Paul W

    Those opposed to the health care bill , including the Republicans, are being exposed for what they are – ignorant, prejudiced, selfish, "I've got mine, the hell with you" uneducated bigots who are only interested in getting as much money as they can while doing as little as possible for our country. I've personally got great health care courtesy of Medicare and Kaiser Permanente but I'm also a small business owner who cannot afford to give my employees the health care they need without causing the business to fail- this bill is a good start towards health care that will eventually be affordable. The US spends twice as much on health care as Western European countries but has the worst health record of any industrialized country..France, Germany , the Netherlands have nearly universal coverage, the average cost per person is half what the US spends but by every objective measure, their health care systems are far more effective.
    Obama , Pelosi and Reid have the guts to do the right thing for the country, despite the political fallout from the Neanderthals who oppose it.

    March 21, 2010 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  25. Louis Merriken

    Typical republican B.S. You guys can't stand on the facts so you do this. Lots of noise, No results. 6 years in control of the house, seneate and executive branch what did we get. 2 wars, 1 we shouldn't even be in that was so mismanaged it is still going on 7 years later. Financial ruin and 9 trillion dollars in debt. I am sure the 30+ million who will be covered with insurance in THIS country will be happy. Defecit reduction what a concept.

    March 21, 2010 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
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