Lawmakers Face Rise in Threats and Intimidation and Fear Worse
As members of Congress prepare for the midterm congressional elections, they are facing a rising tide of threats and intimidation, some of which are becoming physical. The rise in political violence is a worrying trend, with more political speech being delivered in a manner that crosses the line from being mere sarcasm to physical violence. Intimidation and threats are not uncommon for members of Congress, but some lawmakers are facing an especially difficult time.
Violence towards lawmakers
Violence towards lawmakers has increased significantly in recent years, with the numbers increasing year over year. A recent Quartz study revealed that most threats against lawmakers were right-wing. It also found that most of the people who threatened lawmakers were white men suffering from mental illness. The political climate in the US is not helping, with more people believing in political violence on both sides of the aisle.
Threats to elected officials have risen, and some lawmakers have faced armed visits and other forms of violence. Increasing numbers of these incidents have prompted concerns about the state of American democracy. In addition to threats against lawmakers, threats have been increasingly prevalent in government institutions.
Intimidation towards lawmakers
Threats against lawmakers are not uncommon, although physical attacks are not always reported. For example, during the 1960s civil rights debate, members of the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on House Speaker Sam Rayburn’s front lawn in Texas. Threats against members of Congress are investigated by the United States Capitol Police. They report to the chair and ranking member of the Committee on House Administration. Threats against members of the Senate are also investigated by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.
While threats have been relatively rare until recently, recent incidents have heightened the vulnerability of lawmakers. Threats against lawmakers include armed visits to their homes, vandalism, and assaults. Threats against lawmakers also increase as they prepare for the upcoming midterm congressional elections.
Impact of Charlottesville violence on security in Congress
The aftermath of the Charlottesville violence prompted lawmakers to introduce a resolution condemning the attacks and demanding President Trump remove individuals who support white supremacy. The resolution calls for the removal of individuals such as Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Stephen Miller from the White House. The resolution is the latest example of how Congress must step up to combat hate and violence.
The recent Charlottesville riots drew a group of white supremacists to the U.S. Capitol, inspiring efforts to remove Confederate memorials in many cities across the country. The police killing of George Floyd ignited new community activism. In addition, the Confederate general statue was removed from the U.S. Capitol, and the statue of civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune was placed in its place. During last summer’s protests, Capitol Police used excessive force, including surveillance and mass arrests. They also used rubber bullets, batons, and flash-bang grenades. In all, over 300 people were arrested.
Cost of security for members of Congress
Over the last three months, members of Congress spent more than $500,000 on security. It’s a huge increase compared to the same time period in previous years. The increase in personal protection came after the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people, and a separate attack on members of Congress in March that injured House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. However, these expenses only cover a fraction of the overall cost of security.
Members of Congress have long paid for their personal security, but a recent spike in threats has given members pause. This is part of the reason why top Democrats and Republicans are working to allow more flexibility with official budgets. Regardless of how much security is needed, it’s important for lawmakers to remain alert to potential threats.