Politics

Cory Booker slams Republicans excusing violence & death threats against school board members

Sen. Cory Booker
Sen. Cory BookerPhoto: Shutterstock

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) slammed Republicans complaining about how federal law enforcement is investigating threats of violence against schools and teachers by reading a list of violent threats made just this year.

“Has there been a long, pages-long list of what my staff could grab, threats and violence against school officials in the United States of America in the past year?” Booker asked Attorney General Merrick Garland at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday.

Related: Cory Booker’s brother’s child is his nonbinary ‘niephew’

Republican senators had been grilling Garland about how the Department of Justice was investigating threats of violence in schools.

Late last month, the National School Boards Association asked for federal assistance in dealing with threats of violence against school boards, as school board meetings all over the country have been picketed and descended into chaos over issues like transgender students being treated equally in schools, white kids learning about racism, and masking policies to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizations like Stand Up Virginia and Moms for Liberty have been organizing protests while rightwing media spreads misinformation about schools, and in some cases people have turned to violence.

Garland issued a memo saying that the Department of Justice would work with local law enforcement to investigate threats of violence, which angered conservatives throughout the month. Many conservatives falsely claimed that any conservative parent who complains about, for example, transgender students being allowed to use the bathroom while they’re at school is going to be treated as a terrorist by the FBI, even though Garland’s memo specifically says that it is only about threats of violence, not people expressing an opinion.

“The last thing the Justice Department and FBI need is a very vague memo to unleash their power – especially when they’ve shown zero interest in holding their own accountable,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) at the hearing yesterday, suddenly concerned with the limits of police power and police accountability.

Several Republican senators grilled Garland for saying that the government will investigate threats of violence before Booker had a chance to speak, and he had had enough.

“In Texas, a parent physically assaulted a teacher,” Booker said as he started to list threats of violence – and actual violence – that Republican senators were asking the Department of Justice to ignore.

“In Pennsylvania, a person posted threats on social media which required police to station outside of a school district,” Booker continued, possibly referring to a parent who threatened to shoot up a school over COVID-19 restrictions.

“I can keep going: Ohio, a school board member was threatening a letter with, ‘We are coming for you,'” he said, possibly referring to this recorded threat made to a school because they were teaching about diversity.

“Sir, I know something about law enforcement intimidation,” he said, responding to Republican claims that investigating threats of violence will have a silencing effect on angry conservative parents. “It stems from growing up as a Black man in America. I know what it feels like to be pulled over, to be accused of stealing things.”

“If someone was to read the actual letter, you are literally saying as the leader of the highest law enforcement in the land, that you protect spirited debate!” Booker said.

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