While covering the rally at Elon University along with fellow News & Record reporter Mark Binker, Killian saw that about a dozen apparent Obama supporters had spread themselves throughout the crowd. In his blog entry about the incident, he writes:
As Palin got into her speech they began chants of “Obama” and screamed out rebuttals to the points in her speech. This angered some in the crowd — some responding with cursing, others chanting “U.S.A.” and “NObama” to drown them out. Eventually the cops came and escorted them off of the baseball field.
Intrigued by the incident, Killian went looking for the Obama supporters to ask about their reasons for attending the rally. He found one who was willing to be interviewed. Killian writes:
I sidled up to one of the Obama supporters and asked why they were there, what they were trying to accomplish.
As he was telling me a large, bearded man in full McCain-Palin campaign regalia got in his face to yell at him.
“Hey, hey,” I said. “I’m trying to interview him. Just a minute, okay?”
The man began to say something about how of course I was interviewing the Obama people when suddenly, from behind us, the sound of a pro-Obama rap song came blaring out of the windows of a dorm building. We all turned our heads to see Obama signs in the windows.
This was met with curses, screams and chants of “U.S.A” by McCain-Palin folks who crowded under the windows trying to drown it out and yell at the person playing the stereo.
It was a moment of levity in an otherwise very tense situation and so I let out a gentle chuckle and shook my head.
“Oh, you think that’s funny?!” the large bearded man said. His face was turning red. “Yeah, that’s real funny…” he said.
And then he kicked the back of my leg, buckling my right knee and sending me sprawling onto the ground.
This is not the first time the press have been threatened or harassed at a Palin rally.
Dana Millbank of the Washington Post reported that, at a Palin rally in Clearwater, Florida just a couple of weeks ago:
Worse, Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that point, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."
As someone who regularly attends campaign rallies and events while wearing a press pass (one bearing an organization name— MOMocrats— that pretty much unequivocally announces me as a biased liberal, no less), of course I find the recent reports of violent behavior unsettling on a personal level.
But as an American, as a citizen, as a patriot, as a lover of free speech and a firm believer in the value and necessity of a free press, the violent atmosphere recently evident at McCain-Palin rallies, which has clearly been exacerbated by provocative statements made by representatives of the McCain campaign, including Sarah Palin herself, fills me with anxiety and and dismay at the state of our nation.
Living in a Midwestern state, I have spent my whole life alongside neighbors who are conservatives. I have gone to school with, worked with, been friends with and lived with conservatives. I have certainly had strong disagreements with many of them. But I've never forgotten the ties of culture and history that bind us together as Americans, nor have I ever considered less than utter fallacy the idea that our core values were so different we could never find a scrap of common ground. I know conservatives and liberals can work together to solve problems. It happens in my own life every day.
With our nation, and in fact the whole world, facing a terrible financial crisis, an impending global energy crisis, and global climate change, THIS IS NOT A TIME when we as a culture can afford to those who claim they want to lead us out of crisis divide us against one another so bitterly. THIS IS NOT A TIME when we can afford to let racism, isolationism, provincialism or xenophobia undermine the cooperation we so desperately need.
Those who deliberately sow division, distraction and misinformation to win a political race at a time like this will not be forgiven their foibles by history.
The McCain-Palin campaign needs to come out and publicly tell their supporters to stop threatening their fellow Americans. Now.
Before something worse happens than a reporter being kicked to the ground.