*** Updated 10:32 a.m. ***
Rep. Andre Carson, Indiana Democrat, who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, claims that “tea party” protesters hurled racial slurs at fellow CBC member Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat. Mr. Carson said that “hundreds of people” were chanting, “Kill the bill,” and he heard “at least 15 times” the “n – word” being thrown around.
“It just happened on the way to votes. Coming out of [the Cannon House Office Building] … John Lewis’ chief of staff came with us. It was just the three of us walking down the steps. ‘Kill the bill, kill the bill.’ … ‘n-word’ fifteen times,” he said. “Capitol Police finally became aware and began protecting us.”
The videos above and below were taken as Mr. Lewis and Mr. Carson walked toward a crowd of protesters, and racial epithets from the crowd appear to be absent from the different scenes captured.
A U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman said she was unaware of any law enforcement inquiry into the incidents.
Rep Emanuel Cleaver II, Missouri Democrat, who is black, claimed he was spat on by a protester. Mr. Cleaver’s office reportedly said Capitol Police arrested the protester, but his office did not press charges. However, Sgt. Kimberly Schneider of the U.S. Capitol Police said in an e-mail to the L.A. Times, “We did not make any arrests today.”
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat released a statement Saturday night condemning the reported allegations.
“Today’s protests against health insurance reform saw a rash of despicable, inflammatory behavior, much of it directed at minority Members of Congress,” Mr. Hoyer said. “According to reports, anti-reform protestors spat on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, yelled a sexual slur at Rep. Barney Frank, and addressed my dear friend, Rep. John Lewis, with a racial slur that he has sadly heard far too many times.”
The Washington Times caught up with several health care bill protesters, all three of whom are black, and asked their thoughts on the allegations regarding the racial epithets.
Bill Owens Jr., a Tea Party Express leader from Las Vegas, said he did not experience or witness any racial hostility.
“I had a chance to be among these people. It’s not about pigmentation. You have race issues going on all the time; however, I’m not seeing anything significant from these rallies. It’s just not there,” he said. “Does a person find a racist once in a while? … Sure, you find that anywhere. These people are concerned about the issues of where you stand, not what color you are.”
Charlene Freedman, a health care bill protester from New Jersey, has been to Washington four times, since she first attended the 9/12 rally. When asked if she witnessed or heard any racial hostility from the crowd, she said: “Absolutely not … just well-wishers. I didn’t see color. They didn’t see my color. We’re just American citizens, and we’re here to say, ‘Keep America free.’ I’ve heard nothing about racism … nothing at all.”
Jay Jarbo came to the health care protest from Atlanta and explained: “I just want to see them follow the Constitution, and they’re not doing that. Anyone that tries to throw around the racial thing, just squash it, because this has nothing to do with race. I haven’t heard anyone say anything about race at any one of these events,” Mr. Jarbo said. “Honestly, this is the type of thing people bring up to distract from the real issues, and it’s always about race in this country, and its always the last card in the deck that everyone plays.”