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Democrats express safety concerns after protests


WASHINGTON — House Democratic leaders said last week they are concerned about the personal safety of lawmakers because of threats linked to intense opposition to the health care overhaul law.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the FBI and Capitol Police briefed Democrats on how to handle perceived security threats and that those who feel they are at risk will be “getting attention from the proper authorities.”

Hoyer said more than 10 Democratic lawmakers have reported incidents, but he did not say whether any are now receiving added security. Normally only those in leadership positions have personal security guards.

Protests swirled around the Capitol during debate on the health care overhaul last month. Protesters hurled racial slurs at several black lawmakers and one protester spat at a black lawmaker.

Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic whip and a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he has vivid memories of history and that the scene on the street Saturday was “very reminiscent of our history.”

Bricks were thrown through windows at two Democratic Party offices in western New York, including a district office of Rep. Louise Slaughter, who played a key role in getting the health care bill through the House.

The Tucson, Ariz., congressional office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was also vandalized a few hours after the House vote.

Hoyer said there were incidents such as people yelling that Democratic lawmakers should be put on firing lines and posters with the faces of lawmakers in the crosshairs of a target.

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

Several Republicans stood on the second-floor Speaker’s Balcony overlooking the West Front of the Capitol cheering on the protesters and waving signs such as “Kill the bill.”

Hoyer said Democrats were talking to the Republican leadership and hoped to come up with a united front on the security issue.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said in a statement that while many Americans are angry over passage of the health care bill, “violence and threats are unacceptable.”

“That’s not the American way,” Boehner said. “We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change.”

Associated Press