George Graham

Are There No Laws Against Threatening a Black President?

Why are U.S. law enforcement officials treating the flood of death threats leveled against President Barack Obama so lightly? Surely, it must be against the law to advocate the murder of the President? Yet, according to Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten:

In Hagerstown, Md., last week, a man appeared at a town hall meeting hosted by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) with a sign that read “Death to Obama” and “Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids.”

Sheriff’s deputies detained the unidentified, 51-year-old man after getting calls from a number of people attending the meeting, and “turned him over” to the Secret Service. But – according to news reports so far – the man has not been charged.

And no charges were filed when an armed protester showed up at the President’s recent public appearance in New Hampshire carrying a sign that left no doubt about his desire to refresh the tree of Liberty with “the blood of tyrants,” as suggested in a famous Thomas Jefferson quotation (photo at right).

signA protester who openly carried a military weapon at a recent presidential appearance in Arizona declared in an interview that:

The British weren’t stealing money from us for health care. They weren’t taxing us the way they are now back then. And what did we do? We forcefully kicked them out of our country, and we will forcefully resist people imposing their will on us through the strength of the majority with a vote.

It was later revealed on CNN that this protester and his interviewer had planned the appearance as a publicity stunt for a conservative radio show. Despite their professed intention to “forcefully resist” the government, neither the protester nor the host of the radio show was arrested.

Yet a couple of months ago, a conservative radio show host was arrested for inciting violence against judges who upheld Chicago’s ban against handguns. Blogger and radio talk-show host Hal Turner was jailed without bail after posting the work addresses of the judges as well as their photos on the Internet with a note that home addresses would follow.

Turner also declared:

Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions.

These judges deserve to be made such an example of as to send a message to the entire judiciary: Obey the Constitution or die.

Members of America’s radical right are targeting Obama with a lot more threatening remarks than that. Media commentators have openly called for armed insurrection – apparently without any response from law enforcement officials. And many demonstrators have left no doubt about their desire to harm the President and his family – again with impunity.

So I am left to wonder what makes it all right to threaten the head of state but not Circuit Court judges? Does race have anything to do with it?

E. J. Dionne, Jr, in his Washington Post column today, suggests the President’s race might be one reason for the display of guns at his public appearances. Here’s an excerpt from Dionne’s column:

Yes, I have raised the racial issue, and it is profoundly troubling that firearms should begin to appear with some frequency at a president’s public events only now, when the president is black. Race is not the only thing at stake here, and I have no knowledge of the personal motivations of those carrying the weapons. But our country has a tortured history on these questions, and we need to be honest about it. Those with the guns should know what memories they are stirring.

I am tempted to go even farther. If the armed protesters with their threatening placards were Arabs, wouldn’t they be arrested as terrorists?  And is it because Obama is black that the protesters enjoy such expanded freedom of speech? Say it ain’t so, America! Say it ain’t so!

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for