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

Protesters hurl slurs and spit at Democrats


[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Bob Silvian

    PWT (Poor White Trash) Syndrome at its very best. Absolutely appalling and an utter disgrace. Makes me so angry that I almost wish a Democratic Hitler would take over and exterminate all the worthless conservative scumbags. I realize that's wrong, but their hatred brings out my anger. At least I'm intelligent enough to admit that and correct my foolish thoughts.

    March 21, 2010 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  2. Candid One

    Someone was totally out of his mind to ever suggest that the US might approach a post-racial era. Not in a billion years.

    March 21, 2010 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  3. Proud DEM

    This is who the tea baggers are...plain and simple!! Quit using the Constitution as your talking points, cause you are despicable, and down right disgusting....your a bunch of angry sick, uneducated and un-informed lemmings, who follow Beck and the other anti-Americans who lie and lie about the realities of this bill and who President Obama is and what he is trying to accomplish. I hope this will help people see who you are and what you stand for. Your a sick group of anti-Americans.

    March 21, 2010 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  4. les

    The primary impetus of the Republican Right is hate. Nothing else.

    March 21, 2010 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  5. Michael

    All I can say is that the republicans are useless.
    they even know that this is the truth.

    One of the notable useles members of the GOP are Sarah Palin.

    March 21, 2010 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  6. stever

    Mean, hateful, selfish, rude,cruel, everything you come to expect from republicans. Nothing but a bunch of losers just like the idiot they kept in office for eight years.

    March 21, 2010 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  7. Jonathan

    It's unfortunate, but Barney Frank is right. It's one thing to disagree about the issue of health care and to voice one's disagreement in a constructive way. But the sort of anger and attacks we're hearing about go far beyond that. They're not civil, and as he notes, they're a proxy for other sentiments–among which, I'd include racism (for the record, I'm white). The level of hatred and disrespect shown President Obama by a small but vocal segment of the population reveal their underlying discomfort with change. Suddenly, their 1950s "white" world has been shaken (isn't it odd to be nostalgic for a time of overt racism, McCarthy witch hunts and gender discrimination?–and yet they are), and it's left them angry and frightened. It's not something they can admit, but it's clearly a large elephant in the room. Unfortunately, this country hasn't come as far as it needs to yet, but I hope the Democrats stick to their (metaphorical) guns and pass health care reform. It may not be perfect, but it's far better than the Titanic we're sailing in now.

    March 21, 2010 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  8. Edwin Dale Clemons

    I wonder why they simply don't wear their formal wear the sheeted hood. After all it so formal and so precisely conveys their integrty.

    March 21, 2010 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  9. pam albano

    I am against this form of the health care bill. I agree with the protestors but am sorry these democratic congressmen were treated this way. There is a few of this type of people in every crowd whether republican or democrat. There is no need for name calling of any form at all! Pam 🙂

    March 21, 2010 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  10. Carol from Corsicana

    I have to admit that I'm glad I "saw the light" years ago and switched from being a Republican to being a Democrat. There is lots of anger from both sides of this issue, but I've never before seen the kind of venom that's being spewed by the right wing of the Republican party right now. It's heartbreaking and frightening to be a witness to this and to other scenarios – such as the man sitting on the ground who has Parkinson's Disease who was humiliated by the people who are against health care reform. Please – can't we start showing respect for those who hold different views?

    March 21, 2010 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  11. Leland from Chicago

    Ignorance. Go on any online forum or blog and you'll get the same thing from them. The right wing political faction formally known as the tea party has created a reputation as closed minded and belligerent. They are practically teenagers. They are so caught up in there material lives that they dilute themselves from the real one. What’s worse is that their leadership not only teaches them and encourages them, but they participate in the hatred and deceit. I'm disgusted by the thought of what the rest of the world thinks of Americans when they hear their ridiculous lies and see their ridiculous actions.

    March 21, 2010 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  12. Cody Jacobs

    Yea, this is terrible behavior. When President Obama was elected I was on a charter plane for work and a group of guys in front of me started N this and N that. It went on for a few minutes until I confronted them – "Hey thats enough !" They didn't want to back down,calling me an N – lover but after I asked who they worked for and what their supervisors name was they got pretty quiet. I'm proud of myself for standing up at that moment. – Thats what people need to do – stand up! We should be much bigger than this after all the sacrifices made by those who have come before us for equality. We have come a long way but racism is still alive and well.

    March 21, 2010 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  13. Kati Moen

    I support health care reform 100%. I watched my grandfather die of an ulcer that ate through his stomach and into his pancreas. He didn't seek care because he was scared of the overwhelming cost. Ten years earlier he was diagnosed with cancer, as a small business owner he didn't have insurance. He'd just finished paying the hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills when his stomach started hurting – he'd sold off everything he'd held dear. He's just one of many middle class citizens affected by our current health care system.

    Another small bussiness owner who's my friend and my age was forced to give birth to her daughter at home rather than pay the outrageous bills associated with a hospital birth. When it's your financial future... there is no choice.

    The reality is that people are suffering in this country because of our health system. People who are educated and working hard to live the American dream.

    The racism and sexism shown by today's protesters is sick. Those responsible should be ashamed of themselves, and I hope they are not representative of the majority of those engaged in this important social debate.

    March 21, 2010 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  14. SOM

    I just happened to be driving on Pennsylvania Ave when this was going on today. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a sign [in reference to Obama] that read "Send the Black Devil Back". You would think it was the KKK marching on Capitol Hill.

    March 21, 2010 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  15. Steve Burley, Courtice, ON Canada

    It is truly discouraging to be reminded that we, as a civilization, haven't learned the fundamentals of our own preached moral ethics. I do not consider myself niave, or ignorant (in the raw meaning of the latter), but it mortifies me to know that my fellow caucasian countrymen can willfully and publicly abuse a fellow human being, and based on something that cannot nor should not change. I don't give a rats ass if its politics, or prison, if that's all there is left of one's intellect, we have surely arrived at the doorstep of pathetic. Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and I believe human beings are no exception to the cliche`. Maybe if we shared a bit of kindness, people from our own and other parts of the world would see this, and a few less guns get fired.

    I, for one, am so sorry that some good people had to suffer the emotional aftershocks of discriminatory comments especially the "N" name. Health care in the United States of America has NOTHING to do with what those morons had on their adgenda! It is in a word, disgusting!

    Clean up your own back yard before you climb the fence to insult your neighbor's!! And it's my guess that the name callers, and finger pointers will be kept busy for some time to come if they did just that!

    March 21, 2010 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  16. Educated

    This just tends to show the true colors, bigotry, of many individuals – presumably Republicans. A shame since the legislators are well intended. The adversity hopefully drives the Democrats to succeed.

    Most of the major positive changes in history were pushed and passed by many of the ideals represented in the Democratic party with similar resistance. Ironically, most of these changes came after numerous do-nothing administrations controlled by Republican ideals. FDR and Lincoln come to mind...ironically Lincoln represented the Republican party (radicals as they were) which embodied the current Democratic ideals.

    The obstructionists have demonstrated a policy of tax cuts for the wealthy (which is the same as spending) and put their heads in the sand on healthcare. They point the finger when their opposition comes in to clean up the mess – a consistent historical pattern of the political blame game.

    Contrary to the typical Republican rhetoric of "having this shoved down our throat" there is a great deal of the populous that wants and needs this – and they are not necessarily social welfare parasites. The majority of businesses can not afford or refuse to provide health insurance & that has only been getting worse. How many employees or contractors have seen health insurance situation improve in the last two decades?

    We already have a large social healthcare system that is funded by taxes everyone pays into – Medicare/Medicaid & veteran's benefits. Why not suggest pulling the plug completely on that Socialist system, Republicans? Why not just merge the Church into Government and ban abortion completely, Republicans? I don't hear a lot of answers coming from that side of the aisle but I do see plenty of spit and hear plenty of slurs.

    March 21, 2010 01:38 am at 1:38 am |

    KKK without white robes and hoods have hard time accepting a black president and they are showing their true colors now.

    March 21, 2010 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  18. so rich even obama couldn't hurt me but you middle class folk should worry

    you haven't seen anything yet! and Frank calling anybody uncivil is funny.

    March 21, 2010 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  19. for hc

    the ignorant fascists are in high gear working their fear. setting the country and the human race back if they were in control.

    March 21, 2010 02:44 am at 2:44 am |
  20. jules sand-perkins

    We have a POTUS who is forcing bills through Congress against the will of most citizens. Expect those humans to be very angry and say unkind things.

    March 21, 2010 04:24 am at 4:24 am |
  21. Pugilist66

    If it really happened it's on tape. If it's not on tape it didn't happen. I don't believe it for a second.

    March 21, 2010 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  22. Bob True American

    These right wing wackos are showing thier true colors, they are all sheep who fall easily behind the republican/nazi propaganda. I can imagine this was what Nazi Germany was like. Pass the bill!

    March 21, 2010 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  23. Michelle

    Really? These people make me ashamed! It's down right sick and pathetic that anyone in this day and age would stoop so low. Selfish petty group who I knew would show their true selfs at some point! They need to go away and take their scary pathetic American hating friends with them, i.e palin, beck, coulter, cheny and limbaugh!

    March 21, 2010 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  24. Zulu

    To use these kind of words towards senior congressman proves we still have a lot of cowards here in America, try using it out in the real world an see what becomes of you:)

    March 21, 2010 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  25. Jacq

    This is the republican party I know,this is the Tea party I see the other KKK,I've never seen a person of color at a rally Micheal Steel has enough blackness in him not to attend,this is what the republicans stand for

    March 21, 2010 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13