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Organizers condemn slurs during protest

WASHINGTON -- Republican Party officials and "tea party" protest organizers have condemned health care demonstra-tors who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at black and gay lawmakers Saturday at the Capitol.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, appearing Sunday morning on NBC, called the actions by some protesters "reprehensible" and maintained they were isolated incidents that shouldn't reflect on tea party participants as a whole. Amy Kremer, coordinator of the Tea Party Express, agreed.

"I absolutely think it's isolated," Kremer said Sunday on Fox News. "It's disgraceful, and the people in this movement won't tolerate it because that's not what we're about."

Saturday's demonstrations turned ugly when opponents of the health bill confronted members of Congress with racial slurs and homophobic taunts.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights icon and a 12-term congressman, said demonstrators shouted "n-----" at him as he walked out of a House office building.

"Congressman Lewis has since remarked that what he encountered [Saturday] was reminiscent of what he experienced 45 years ago as a young man marching for freedom for all Americans," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Sunday in a written statement.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., a United Methodist Church minister and a former two-term mayor of Kansas City, said protesters spat at him Saturday. Cleaver's office said the U.S. Capitol Police arrested someone in connection with the incident, but Cleaver declined to press charges.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., one of three openly gay members of Congress, said he endured anti-gay slurs by a group of protesters.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., condemned the incidents Saturday.

"Members of Congress and opinion leaders ought to come to terms with their responsibility for inciting the tone and actions we saw [Saturday]," Hoyer said in a written statement. "A debate that began with false fears of forced euthanasia has ended in a truly ugly scene. It is incumbent on all of us to do better next time."

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