Congressmember Bob Filner: Confronting racist Tea Party violence on election night

by: Paul Rosenberg

Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 09:00


Yesterday morning, I heard an interview with San Diego Congressmember Bob Filner on a local Pacifica radio program. Filner talked briefly about the violent confrontation that he and some supporters experienced at the hands of his opponent, Nick  "Gunny Pop" Popaditch, and some of his supporters on election night.  Filner is one of two veterans of the 1961 Freedom Rides currently serving in Congress--John Lewis is the other one.  Like Lewis, Filner was also involved in the voting rights protests at Selma four years later.  Also like Lewis, Filner has been physically threatened by Tea Partiers. The book, Freedom riders: 1961 and the struggle for racial justice by Raymond Arsenault has the following to say about Filner on p. 327:

And here's his mugshot, from his Congressional website, followed by what it says on that same page:

Two months in jail forged California Congressman's passion for justice: Congressman Bob Filner as he is booked into the Jackson, Mississippi Jail in June, 1961.

Filner, then an eighteen-year-old sophomore at Cornell University, was arrested for "disturbing the peace" and "inciting a riot" while taking part in the now-famous Freedom Rides - groups of people who traveled to Alabama and Mississippi in an attempt to integrate restaurants, restrooms, and bus station waiting rooms.  Filner refused to post bail and spent two months in the Mississippi State Penitentiary to help keep national attention focused on the issue of integration. The Supreme Court overturned Filner's conviction - and eventually all the Jim Crow laws in the South.  In 1961, the Freedom Riders were greeted with fury, fists, and firebombs. They returned in 2001 to Jackson to celebrate their fortieth anniversary - greeted by the first black Mayor in the City's history.

Here's a video report of the election night confrontation from the Southwestern College Sun (transcript on the flip):

Paul Rosenberg :: Congressmember Bob Filner: Confronting racist Tea Party violence on election night
Violence erupted at San Diego's Golden Hall election. Bob Filner was attacked by Republican Challenger Nick Popaditch and his supporters.

Filner, a Southwestern College reporter and Filner supporters were set upon by a mob of about 100, led by Popaditch.

Filner and student journalist Monika Tuncibilek were trapped with their backs to a pillar, surrounded by Popaditch supporters.

At least one member of his entourage was punched in the face. Filner was shoved and spat at as he grabbed the arm Tuncibilek to keep her from being assaulted or injured.

Popaditch led an angry mob that called Filner a "communist" and chanted "papa-ditch" then later changed the chant to "Bob's-a-bitch."

Popaditch supporters followed Popaditch as he rushed at Filner and his staff as soon as he entered Golden Hall. Filner supporters were overwhelmed by people holding Popaditch signs.

Filner was surrounded with his back against a wall as he attempted to make his way to one of the news stations for an interview. Popaditch darted across the hall to get in front of Filner and confronted him.

A Popaditch supporter said the incident was only "one candidate trying to give another a handshake" and that "one ran, one followed." Filner supporters called the Popaditch camp "childish."

At one point a Popaditch supporter punched a member of Filner's camp while Popaditch was seen smiling about 10 feet away. Police eventually established control over the crowd. There were no arrests.

Filner won re-election to the 51st Congressional District with 60 percent of the vote.

This is a relatively restrained account, however.  In the interview, Filner connected what he experienced that night with his training in the Civil Rights Movement in how to protect himself when being attacked. And well he should have.

The East County Magazine reported:

POPADITCH INCITES MOB, CURSES AT FILNER AND REPORTEDLY PUSHES OPPONENT AT ELECTION CENTRAL
By Miriam Raftery
ECM reporter Mary Paulet contributed to this report

November 5, 2010 (San Diego) - In the sore loser category, Republican Nick Popaditch wins hands down.

Multiple credible news sites have reported that after Democratic Congressman Bob Filner was declared winner by a 20-point margin, a mob of Popaditch supporters, including Tea Party and white supremacist members, cornered and spat on Popaditch's opponent, Filner. Video by the Chula Vista Star News reveals that Popaditch cursed at Filner, called him a liar, and made no efforts to calm down an increasingly virulent mob that forced Filner out of Golden Hall's Election Central and into the lobby. Filner told CityBeat that he was shoved by Popaditch.

"Last night, Nick Popadith made Election Central a threatening and unsafe place to be," CityBeat's Dave Masse wrote. Mayor Jerry Sanders' security detail ultimately rescued the Congressman from the mob, CityBeat reported.

East County Magazine reporter Mary Paulet interviewed a witness, Robin Buse, during the altercation, whose statement confirms Filner's allegation. Buse told ECM that she saw Popaditch push Filner. "I ran and got the cops," added Buse, a Filner supporter. Others, fearful for their safety, confirmed assaults by Popaditch and his supporters.

A second witness, who asked not to be named, said she also saw pushing and cussing. She added that a Popaditch supporter also pushed a Filner supporter. East County Magazine editor Miriam Raftery, also at the scene, spoke with yet another distraught person who said "Popaditch just went after Filner." Raftery photographed police officers moving in to calm down the mob.

A Southwestern College Sun reporter said that a Popaditch supporter punched a Filner supporter in the face, that Popaditch backers spat on Filner supporters and chanted "Bob's a bitch."

The San Diego Union-Tribune quotes Filner as saying "It was like a mob scene...there was violence in their eyes."

And CityBeat's Last Blog On Earth reported that one of Popaditch's supporters had bragged about his role in the confrontation on white supremacist Stormfront website:

The video contains amateur footage of the Popaditch Experience at Election Central, followed by images of insurgents, militias, the Irish Republican Army, a whole lot of AK-47s (Aurick lists researching AKs and revisionist history as among his interests on his "about me") and Mel Gibson in Braveheart (wtf).  It also makes reference to snipers and is accompanied by this call to action (emphasis added):
    When political and diplomatic negotiations fail then we have only violent rebellion left to insure our people are fairly represented. We may have to force our government to respect our demands at gunpoint! This election was a complete fraud for those of you that still can't see the obvious and we have almost exausted all peaceful negotiation with this tyrannical governement, so what is left? Total war is all that's left to us! I saw the begining of it last night and so did all of you, but most of you do not realize it yet. This is a game they let us win a few seats in the House but this is not in any way a decisive victory and the tyrants are still in power! Now is the time we begin to force them to recogzise our power, and we've only just begun to fight. We have rebel friends around the world too that will join us in our eternal struggle for freedom.

Later, Aurick came back and added this comment to his video:
    At frames 204 -206 you can see Filner cowardly hiding his back against the support beam as trys to avoid Nick Popaditch and all of our questions we have for the weasle. It? iwas a joy to see him as the coward I always knew he was, if you couold see it any better it would be obvious he's afraid and probably for the first time in his privileadged litte rich boy life.

As is so typical, this two-bit punk has no idea who Filner is.  Tea Party violence is not "exuberance", is not "isolated", is not "incidental."  This is who they are.  Filner and Lewis and many others still alive have seen this before up close and personal in the 1960s.  This is violent white supremacy.

And no, there is no such thing as "reverse-white-supremacy."


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Really disturbing. But for context - (0.00 / 0)
what is "Golden Hall Election Central"?

It's Where People Come Election Night (0.00 / 0)
One of the few (only?) places in America where politicians of all parties come together on election night, as opposed to separate "victory parties".  A rare nod to bipartisan "civility".  That worked out well, now didn't it?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
It's a Great Idea, Actually (4.00 / 1)
Like town governments here in the northeast, where people of different political parties work face to face on local issues, making politicians get together in one location on election night sounds like a wonderful idea. Even when you get this outcome, it makes it difficult for the aggressor to hide. And that helps the public and voters realize exactly who they're electing.

Filner's story is extremely interesting to me. We have a teenager who is very passionate about social justice but I can't imagine them in a state penitentiary, and willfully staying there to make the point to get a little justice in this world. That's a scary thought as a parent. Probably our kid would be up for it, to a point.

Which would be my other comment: people like Filner took great personal risks at a time when the culture would not support them but the legal system would (and did). We live in a time where the legal system probably would not support the Filners of the world and would, instead, support the elites. The personal physical risk Filner and other Freedom Riders took also highlight the difference between then and now. It would appear not many people today would assume the same risk for Social Security, for jobs, for equitable distribution of wealth in this country.


[ Parent ]
A Slight Disagreement (4.00 / 2)
I understand and appreciate your sentiments.  But I think it's important to realize that perhaps the greatest difference between now and then is an institutional one.  You conclude:

The personal physical risk Filner and other Freedom Riders took also highlight the difference between then and now. It would appear not many people today would assume the same risk for Social Security, for jobs, for equitable distribution of wealth in this country.

But I think the fact is that many people today would assume such a risk, if they had any sense of what to do and how to make it have any impact.  And that depends on having a framework of sympathetic people and institutions within which such actions can have an impact.  People don't want to just make meaningless gestures.  They want to have an impact, and there's nothing at all wrong with that.

We need to do all we can to support them in that desire.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
impressive (4.00 / 1)
I look at those frothing at the mouth troglodytes heaping abuse on another American hero and I think to myself: There's the salvation of progressivism /metamars  

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? And cold comfort for change?

Who Are You Going To Believe? (0.00 / 0)
Metamars?  Or your lyin' eyes?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
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