Cynthia McKinney Attorney: ‘This case has just begun’ (FCN, 04-18-2006)

WASHINGTON ( – In the minds of many Black analysts, the apology by Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) for her response to a U.S. Capitol Police officer touching her after she walked around a security metal detector was a clear example of the hazard of “being in Congress while Black.”

Surrounded at the speaker’s well on the House floor Apr. 6 by several Congressional colleagues, mostly members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. McKinney, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at Tufts University, apologized for her part in the Mar. 29 episode in which she reportedly struck the White officer after she was grabbed by him when he did not recognize her.


Although members of Congress are permitted to bypass security at the entrance to Congressional buildings, the officer reportedly did not recognize her because she was not wearing an official lapel pin usually worn by Congress members at the Capitol, and she was not wearing her hair in the cornrow-braided style with which most people are familiar.

She wanted to “express again my sincere regret,” she said in a brief speech. “There should not have been any physical contact. I am sorry that this misunderstanding happened at all, and I regret its escalation. And I apologize.”

Hers was a clear case of “blaming the victim for the crime,” in the minds of some. The Capitol Police referred the matter to a prosecutor, who put the case before a federal grand jury to review the allegations that she hit the officer in the chest with her cell phone. The Republican-dominated House sought to embarrass Rep. McKinney and the Democratic Party by passing a resolution praising the police.

“The rules for Black people and White people are different,” Richard Healey, president of the Grassroots Policy Project, told The Final Call. “And she violated the rules for Black people.”

If Rep. McKinney had been a White female and the police officer had been Black: “There wouldn’t have been an incident,” Dr. Ronald Walters, professor of Political Science at the University of Maryland, said in an interview. Black Capitol Police officers agree, admitting confidentially that incidents are common when White members of Congress become irate after being challenged by police, but the incidents are never national news items or referred to a grand jury for possible prosecution.

“I feel there is some racial profiling in this case,” Democratic Georgia state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, who has known Rep. McKinney for 30 years and was her campaign manager from 1992 to 2002, told The Washington Post. “Believe me, I know in my travels through the government buildings, my White colleagues are treated differently from me.”

“It’s fairly clear to me, these (Capitol Police) are ‘Good Old Boys,’” Dr. Walters argued, “and they have that attitude toward Black people: ‘You shouldn’t be up here anyway.’”

Rep. McKinney “was essentially chased and grabbed by the officer,” said her attorney, James Myart Jr. according to published reports. “She reacted instinctively in an effort to defend herself,” adding that she was “just a victim of being in Congress while Black.”

He further contended that, “Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, like thousands of average Americans across this country, is too a victim of the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials because of how she looks and the color of her skin,” and maintained that she would be exonerated.

“Let me be clear. This whole incident was instigated by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female Black congresswoman,” Rep. McKinney stressed at a press conference at Howard University Mar. 31, surrounded by civil rights leaders and entertainers Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover at the annual meeting of the TransAfrica Forum.

There is a very clear “double standard” concerning the treatment of Black and White members of Congress. At least three White members have been involved in egregious sexual misconduct, but they were never threatened with criminal prosecution, as was Rep. McKinney.

Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.), for example, was repudiated by his colleagues, but did not face any criminal charges after it was discovered he had seduced a high-school-aged male page. Former Rep. Daniel Crane (R-Ill.) was also reprimanded by the House, but did not face any criminal charges for seducing a female page. Similarly, Rep. Barney Frank was reprimanded, but did not face any criminal charges concerning his relationship with a male prostitute whom he hired on his Congressional staff, while the man ran a prostitution ring out of Mr. Frank’s apartment, Amos Jones wrote in The Record, an independent newspaper published at the Harvard University Law School.

After her apology, Rep. McKinney posted a statement on her website: “I know that Capitol Hill Police are securing our safety, and I appreciate the work that they do. I have demonstrated my support for them in the past and I continue to support them now.”

“Homeland Security” issues, and the sensitivity of Democratic leaders to Republican criticisms for being “weak” on security created enormous pressure, and the Democratic Party felt it, said Dr. Walters. “Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus took it upon themselves to have a ‘come to Jesus meeting’ with Cynthia, in which they asked if she would take the heat off some of the Democrats in the House by making it possible for this issue to go away.

“This is the era of Homeland Security,” he continued. “It’s a convenient justification for a whole body of evils. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus questioned about this indicated that they rely on these (Capitol Police) in an era of heightened security to protect them, so they were just doing their job, etc. They might have been over-zealous, but they were just protecting members of the House.

“I know Cynthia, and she can be volatile. I don’t think it is anger. I don’t think Cynthia is out of control. I think that she has a sense of pride and a sense that she is not going to allow anyone to treat her untoward. In this case, someone put their hand on her and she used whatever she could to reject them.”

Rep. McKinney may have been targeted by Republicans because she’s been very vocal about the White House and President George Bush concerning the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the invasion of Iraq. In 2002, long before the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11, Rep. McKinney insisted that Pres. Bush knew about the attack in advance, but did nothing to prevent it.

“It gets me angry, because there are so few people who tell the truth,” said Mr. Healey. “She does and she just gets whacked.”