From Color of Change -- March 30, 2010:
Just over a week ago, Tea Party protestors hurled racial and homophobic slurs and spat at members of Congress. That was followed by a rash of vandalism and death threats targeting Democratic members of Congress.
Republicans have done almost nothing to tamp down this dangerous atmosphere and have even egged the protesters on. And when the Republican National Committee was asked to endorse a bi-partisan “civility” statement that would send a message to the protesters, they refused.
It's time to demand that Republican leaders stop turning a blind eye to violence and hate before it gets out of control and someone gets hurt.
Since the passage of health care reform last week, at least ten members of Congress have received threats and requested additional police presence.4 Windows and doors were smashed at several representatives' offices, and a gas line was cut at what vandals thought was the house of Congressman Tom Perriello. One office had to be evacuated when it received a threatening letter filled with an unidentified white powder.
Meanwhile, some Republicans have tried to justify the vandalism or blame Democrats for inviting it on themselves, and others have escalated their use of violent rhetoric. Sarah Palin told her supporters "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!", and published a map with cross-hairs over the districts of some Democrats who voted for health care reform. RNC Chairman Michael Steele said "let's start getting Nancy [Pelosi] ready for the firing line this November."
Last Saturday's protest and this week's past events are just the most recent example of the intolerance and hate coming from right-wing extremists this past year. At times it's been instigated by Republican leaders. When not, it's usually condoned and seen as part of a strategy to score politically. Either way, it's completely unacceptable and has to stop.
We're calling on RNC Chair Michael Steele, House Minority Leader John Boehner, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to publicly do two simple things:
Unequivocally condemn bigotry and hate among their supporters, and make clear that those who embrace it have no place in their party.
Make clear that they will not tolerate fear-mongering and coded appeals to racism from officials in the Republican party, at any level.
The Tea Party movement has been marked by racially inflammatory and violent outbursts since its inception a year ago. GOP leaders are trying to pass off last weekend's assaults on Congressmen Lewis, Cleaver, Clyburn and Frank as isolated incidents. But when so-called "isolated incidents" crop up again and again, a pattern starts to emerge. The examples are numerous:
At rallies held to protest tax day last year, Tea Partiers carried signs that announced "Obama's Plan: White Slavery," "The American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama's Oven," and "Guns Tomorrow!" The Republican National Committee had endorsed the rallies, and RNC Chairman Michael Steele encouraged Tea Partiers to send a "virtual tea bag" to President Obama and Democratic Congressional leadership. After reports of the fear-mongering signs surfaced, Steele did nothing to distance his party from the lunatic fringe. He has even gone so far as to say that if he didn't have his current position, he'd be "out there with the Tea Partiers. " Some Republican governors even planned a "Tea Party 2.0" for the following month in an effort to build on the rallies' momentum.
The Tea Party's venomous rhetoric picked up steam over the summer, when angry mobs flooded town hall meetings legislators had organized as sites for rational, civil debate on health care reform. After one meeting in Atlanta, a swastika was painted on the office of Congressman David Scott (D-GA), who had also received a flier addressed to "nigga David Scott." Some protesters showed up at town hall meetings carrying guns, including at least one man who was armed at an event where the President was speaking. Again, Republicans responded to these tactics with silence, doing nothing to denounce them.
Similarly, there was no public outcry from Republican leadership when Mark Williams, a leader of the Tea Party movement, was exposed for having described the President as "an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief" on his blog. Instead, members of the GOP continued to show up to and endorse Tea Party rallies. And as recently as Sunday -- the day that the historic health care bill passed the House -- Republican members of the House riled up the same Tea Party crowd that had earlier harassed their fellow members with hate and bigotry.
Despite all of this, Republican leaders have courted the Tea Party movement while methodically supporting, exacerbating and exploiting their fear and anger for cynical political ends.
Our country deserves better than this. No matter what party one supports, we should all take strong action to support civil, honest, and respectful public debate.
Please take a moment to call on Michael Steele, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell to denounce the racist rhetoric and fear-mongering of the Tea Party movement, and tell those who embrace these divisive and Un-American beliefs that they have no place in their Party.