President Biden said “the battle for the “soul of America” is “animated by the perennial battle between our worst instincts—which we’ve seen of late—and our better angels.”
Article seven in the never-ending series of papers begging and pleading elected officials and state and local law enforcement to take the threats directed against our democratic process, and democracy itself from domestic terror groups, lone actors, and others more seriously.
In January 2021 I was asked to give a safety and security briefing to appx 200 members of the DNC via zoom, and both DNC volunteers and staff reported they had some fear for their own safety after the events of January 6th at the Capitol.
Now I wish I could say this was rare or an extraordinary moment in history when a singular incident caused a temporary rise in the risks to members of a political party or group. Sadly I would be lying.
Matthew Parker, CEO, ISA
As we mentioned in article 6, Protection-for-elected-officials May 25th, 2021, Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney told CNN’s Jake Tapper in May 2021 “If you look at the vote to impeach, for example, there were members who told me that they were afraid for their own security — afraid, in some instances, for their lives,” she said. “And that tells you something about where we are as a country, that Members of Congress aren’t able to cast votes, or feel that they can’t, because of their own security.”
In short, some Members of Congress voted against impeaching Trump out of fear for their own lives”. So to political science students and teachers & historians, do you think this has never happened before? What other legislation has passed or been defeated with votes cast or not cast out of fear? How about the 13th & 19th amendments? More recently the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution or House bill H.R. 3162 later known as the Patriot Act.
Now, considering the current balance of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate one member, not voting could have a major impact on legislation passing or not passing. Look no further than the effort to pass the current infrastructure bill, all but stopped in its tracks by one Democratic Member of the Senate or the Repeal of Obama Care stopped by the single vote by The Honorable Senator John McCain.
So given how one vote can be crucial to a major piece of legislation, why are we still allowing the protection of an elected official to be a factor in how our representative democracy works?
But it’s not just elected officials anymore, its state and local health officials threatened over COVID restrictions and election officials who certified the 2020 election results. We had two Governors threatened with kidnapping and assassination in 2020. But my friends we shouldn’t be surprised at all, just look no further than to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, his wife, Tricia, and their family who are still today receiving threats of violence months after the 2020 election.
Why would anyone want to serve the people of their state or community when your wife and family could start receiving threatening text messages like “You and your family will be killed very slowly,” received on April 24. How about “We plan for the death of you and your family every day,” and your family is “going to have a very unfortunate incident,”.
And it’s not just empty threats either, as most of you will remember in 2011 Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s was shot, and that had a real long-term effect on others. In February 2017 Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), and Rep. Reichert (R-WA) decided to not hold public events, and blamed their decisions on “the threat of violence at town hall meetings” and they used the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s as their evidence.
In fact, as far back as 2017 heightened security concerns factored into many Members of Congress having some reluctance to hold town hall meetings with constituents. Many members of Congress canceled these meetings because they couldn’t find within their districts a safe venue for a town hall.
So let’s analyze this, the elected officials and guardians of our Democracy sworn to “Support and Defend the Constitution of the United States, stopped meeting with their constituents because of fear of violence at these public meetings. Our elected officials canceled trips, events, meetings and may have voted for or against legislation over security concerns.
Well, this turned out to be a valid fear because, on June 14th, 2017 Congressman Steve Scalise was shot on an Alexandria Virginia Baseball Field, which was followed by the October 2017 decision by Rep. Frederica S. Wilson of Florida to “skip votes” because of “a wave of threats against her. She skipped votes?
But what was odd in the aftermath of the attack on Congressman Steve Scalise was many members of Congress stated they did not want additional security as they felt it would prevent them from meeting with constituents. Massachusetts Congressman Democrat Michael E. Capuano said during an interview with Boston Herald Radio “I will refuse and I think most will refuse to live in a glasshouse where we are untouchable,” “I don’t think that’s appropriate.” He was responding to the question of having security assigned to him.
Now at the time, Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas, the chairman of the subcommittee writing security budget legislation said he wanted to provide more money for the personal protection of members because “some members wanted security details to follow them wherever they go”. “There are a number of members who have had very specific threats and after the Scalise tragedy are feeling legitimately scared that they will be next,” he said.
But little changed and in June 2018 Rep. Maxine Waters of California reported: “threatening messages” and “hostile mail” including “one very serious death threat” from an individual in Texas. As a result, Rep. Waters canceled two scheduled appearances in Alabama and Texas.
In the Summer of 2019, then Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testified that there were 4,894 cases of threats against Members in FY2018 and that FY2019 was on track to see an increase in the number of cases. “This is compared to 902 investigated threats against Members in 2016”, “The increased level of threats has overwhelmed the Capitol Police Threat Assessment Section”.
And then we have January 6th, 2021, wherein a letter was written immediately after the breach of the Capitol by Democratic Representatives Josh Gottheimer, and Dean Phillips and addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House leadership including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy thirty (30) House Members said they felt like “targets” and asked for more security.
Then along comes the Task Force 1-6 Capitol Security Review, overseen by my former Brigade Commander Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré, which again highlighted multiple gaps in the security of elected officials. Why… 2011, 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2021 at this point what is preventing these threats to our political process and democracy itself from being addressed?
Did you look behind you?
But we have been talking about external threats to our political process up to now, we still need to acknowledge the internal threats from those within our democracy sworn to defend our constitution and political process. Some serve in Congress or are state or local officials or serve in leading roles with political parties and where we now see elected officials propping open doors so protestors can breach statehouses, and members of parties who dare to openly associate with ANTIFA and “Q” conspiracy theorists, known Nazi sympathizers, anti-Semites, and White Supremacists.
These officials push false election narratives, conspiracy theories and openly refuse to acknowledge the violent breach of the Capitol on January 6th. They censure their own elected officials who had the temerity to follow their conscience and voted to impeach or for the independent commission to investigate the events of the 6th of January. And yet with everything going on, the death threats, the calls for violence on social media, and arrests of suspected kidnap plotters and those who breached the Capitol, many of our elected officials refuse to acknowledge the danger to themselves and their families, refusing even the basic of security precautions.
And given it’s the rhetoric and hate speech of some of these same elected officials that is increasing the threats towards them and their peers, you would think they would either dial it back or better protect themselves. Truth is the only thing preventing members of Congress and state or local officials from being safe and secure while they do the work of their constituents is quite honestly themselves. Refusing to take their security seriously, believing the false narrative a protective detail blocks the public from speaking with you and thinking if you carry a gun you’re protected. Never mind ceasing to spew nonsense that incites violence.
By refusing to take appropriate safety and security measures political leaders are endangering the very office they were elected to fill, and the work they were supposed to be doing for their constituents. You can’t represent your district and vote on legislation if you’re dead or in the hospital. The passing of a 1.4 trillion piece of legislation may come down to another Member of Congress being shot.
It’s not like law enforcement agencies, departments, and semi-private sector companies like @ISA don’t exist and have the training and ability to keep you safe. We do, and Congress has authorized money for your security, so use it. Or keep risking your vote isn’t there when needed. Don’t vote for or against something out of fear, vote your conscious and we will be here and have your back. Meet with your constituents, have public meetings, shake hands, kiss babies.
But what about candidates for office, what if Bobby Kennedy was elected, what if Bobby Kennedy was not assassinated, what if all the potential candidates for office who decided to not run were elected. How would things be different? The Viet Nam war ends sooner, poverty, education policy, tax policy, military actions, elections, all possibly better or different than today.
Candidates, please stop using volunteers and the cheapest security guards you can find, money may be tight, but ask George Wallace what happens on the election trail, Ask Bernie how he felt when the stage was rushed by someone not quite as progressive as he is.
For those elected officials that say “they are just like the rest of us” forgive me, but you’re not like me, I can’t call the White House to discuss a matter with the President or with members of his/her staff. You are no longer an individual person, but rather a critical piece of equipment in the machine of government. You are a symbol of our democracy, and as Speaker Ryan pointed out after the shooting of Rep Scalise “an attack on one member of Congress is an attack on all of us”
Again, I say this with all due respect, but please stop being selfish and just thinking about yourself, instead, you need to think about the work you need to be doing for us the voters, your constituents, your district, and your country. Work that you can’t do if you’re not here to do it, and yes, your Governor will appoint a replacement or there will be a special election, but until then there will be a hole in the fabric of our nation.
And stop inciting the violence with partisan hate rhetoric and false claims. Show respect for your peers and the voters. We need you to realize you are part of something bigger than your party, title, or office; you are a symbol of democracy. Time to act like it.
About the author:
Matthew Parker is a retired U.S. Army Senior Non-Commissioned Officer and combat veteran with more than 20 years of distinguished military service, Mr. Parker has served in a variety of leadership & protective service assignments and is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Independent Security Advisors LLC, a certified disabled veteran-owned company where he also serves as the Director of Training for the ISA Training Division, overseeing their programs relating to dignitary & executive protection and terrorism.
Mr. Parker has interned and worked as a volunteer for elected officials and candidates for office and has over 16 years of executive and dignitary protection experience where he has been directly responsible for the close protection of international diplomats & trade delegations, corporate executives, candidates for public office, and various celebrities.
With his extensive experience as a special advisor and consultant to domestic and international elected officials, Mr. Parker provides program management and executive leadership services for executive protection organizations, government, and non-government organizations on areas of concentration that include supporting democracy through the protection of elected officials and world leaders, anti-terrorism and combating extremism.
Mr. Parker also oversees the Domestic Violence Action Network, a non-profit effort to stop domestic violence in partnership with law enforcement and private security providers nationally.
Parts of this article use some research material taken from or used in previous articles written by the author.
#guardiansofdemocracy, #executiveprotectiontraining, @ISA, @executive protection
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