Share this article

print logo

Health bill backers face threats of violence
Slaughter accuses GOP of 'coded rhetoric'

Unrest over sweeping federal health care legislation has turned to vandalism and threats, with bricks hurled through Democrats' windows, a propane line cut at the home of a congressman's brother and menacing phone messages left for lawmakers who supported the bill.

The FBI is investigating the reports, which include shattered windows at Democratic offices in Arizona and Kansas as well as the Niagara Falls district office of Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport.

At least 10 members of Congress have reported some sort of threat, although no arrests have been made.

A brick was tossed through the window of a Monroe County Democratic Party office in Rochester over the weekend with a note that read: "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice," roughly quoting Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential nominee.

Slaughter accused Republican leaders of failing to denounce attacks against lawmakers who supported the legislation. The vandalism at her Falls district office occurred early Friday, two days before the House passed the health care overhaul bill.

"It's more disturbing to me that Republican leadership has not condemned these attacks and instead appears to be fanning the flames with coded rhetoric," said Slaughter, a key supporter of the bill.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement that while many Americans are angry over the bill's passage, "violence and threats are unacceptable. That's not the American way.

We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change."

The FBI and Capitol Police were briefing Democratic lawmakers on how to handle perceived security threats, said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Those who feel at risk will be "getting attention from the proper authorities," Hoyer said, declining to say whether any are receiving extra security. Normally only those in leadership positions have personal guards.

At a news conference in Washington, Hoyer said people have yelled that Democratic lawmakers should be put on firing lines and posters have appeared with the faces of lawmakers in a target's cross-hairs.

While not directly criticizing Republicans, Hoyer said that "any show of appreciation for such actions encourages such action."

A Sarah Palin page on Facebook incorporated gun imagery in urging people to organize against 20 House Democrats who voted for the health care bill but represent districts where the John McCain-Palin ticket won two years ago. Palin's post featured a U.S. map with circles and cross-hairs over the 20 districts.

Some of the anger spilled over in a flood of obscenity and threat-filled phone and fax messages to the office of Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. His office released some of the messages it has received since the health care bill passed, declining to add further comment.

"I hope you bleed . . . [get] cancer and die," one male caller said between curses.

Protests swirled around the Capitol during the health care debate last weekend. Demonstrators hurled racial slurs at several black lawmakers, including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the civil rights pioneer.

Another protester spit on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., who also is black.

In Virginia, someone cut a propane line leading to a grill at the Charlottesville home of Rep. Tom Perriello's brother after the address was posted online by activists angry about the health care overhaul. Perriello also said a threatening letter was sent to his brother's house. The FBI and local authorities were investigating.

"Tea party" activists had posted the brother's address online thinking it was the congressman's home.

Lyndsay Stauble, executive director of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party in Wichita, Kan., said a brick was hurled through the party's storefront plate glass window late Friday or early Saturday, damaging her office desk.

The slogans "No to Obama" and "No Obamycare" were written in marker on the brick, she said.

In Tucson, Ariz., someone either kicked in or shot out a glass door and a side window at the congressional office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords early Monday, a few hours after the House health care vote. Giffords voted for the health care bill.

Slaughter talked about the broken window in a statement Wednesday on her Web site and said her office also received a voice mail at her campaign office "referencing snipers."

Capitol Police, the FBI and Niagara Falls police continue to investigate the incidents.

Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John R. Chella said investigators are convinced that the brick thrown through the window of Slaughter's Pine Avenue office just after 12:20 a.m. Friday was not a random act of violence, but directly attributable to her stand on health care.

"It may seem like we are expending a lot of energy on one window," Chella said, "but if we don't, then we are sending a message to other people who think they can change public policy by throwing bricks instead of voting."

News Niagara Reporter Nancy A. Fischer contributed to this report.

There are no comments - be the first to comment