Rep. John Lewis must be having flashbacks to his days as a civil rights activist, when racial hostility was the order of the day. Forty-five years ago he was beaten by state troopers in Selma, Ala. as he marched for equal voting rights. Yesterday he was one of several lawmakers who were heckled with racial epithets and spat upon — yes, spat upon — by Tea Party protesters who rallied against health care reform.
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.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a 'ni—er.' 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."
SOURCE: Huffington Post
It's been clear for some time that for many participants these protests aren't really about health care reform. The so-called government takeover of health care the Tea Partiers decry is a proxy for their unfounded fear of a black takeover of the government, embodied by President Barack Obama.
For the latest coverage on today's historic health care reform vote in the House, check out the Washington Post's Health-Care Reform 2010 page.