6 Minnesota politicians' homes defaced

  • Article by: PATRICIA LOPEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 23, 2008 - 11:48 AM

When Laurie Coleman, wife of U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, hauled her trash to the alley at 7:30 Wednesday morning, a chilling sight greeted her.

Sprayed in black on the wooden siding of the garage behind the couple's St. Paul home, in letters nearly a foot high: "U R A CRIMINAL RESIGN OR ELSE! PSALM 2" On the alley side, "SCUM" was scrawled across both garage stall doors and a wooden partition in between.

The Colemans weren't alone. Vandals struck the garages and homes of five other Minnesota members of Congress late Tuesday or early Wednesday, spray-painting graffiti that called for them to resign and included a biblical reference to "Psalm 2."

In Minneapolis, Sen. Amy Klobuchar went to fetch the newspaper and found that the side of her home had been defaced, as did Kim Ellison, the wife of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, also in Minneapolis.

The garages of Rep. Michele Bachmann, of Stillwater; Rep. Jim Ramstad, of Minnetonka, and Rep. John Kline, of Lakeville, also bore similar graffiti.

Klobuchar and Ellison are Democrats; Coleman, Bachmann, Ramstad and Kline are Republicans.

DFL Rep. Betty McCollum, who lives in a St. Paul condominium, did not have her property vandalized -- nor were the homes of representatives in outstate Minnesota.

Peter Panos, spokesman for the St. Paul Police, said the threatening nature of some of the graffiti elevates concerns. "We're looking at this as an actual threat," he said. "We're taking it quite seriously. Vandalism threats are pretty rare in this city."

Police in the different jurisdictions are investigating the incidents and may coordinate their efforts today, Panos said

U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said that the Capitol Police in Washington are assisting in the investigation. Capitol Police deal regularly with threats to members of Congress or their offices, and could potentially have data from any previous incidents.

Early morning discoveries

Sometime between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., someone came alongside the north Minneapolis corner home of Keith and Kim Ellison and left the words "TRAITOR. RESIGN NOW. PSALM 2," for a shaken Kim Ellison to find. Larry Weiss, Keith Ellison's campaign manager, noted that the word "SCUM" was spray-painted high enough above the garage door that the culprit probably would have needed a step stool.

Ramstad, who has represented the Third Congressional District in the western suburbs since 1991, found that his Minnetonka property had been violated in the night. The garage door was emblazoned with the message, "U R A sellout!!! Psalm 2," and the word "SCUM" was sprayed above the door, according to Ramstad spokesman Lance Olson. Ramstad, who is not running for reelection, found the incident disturbing, Olson said.

A spokesman for Kline, Troy Young, said similar language was spray-painted on the congressman's garage door, although he declined to say what the words were or when the incident occurred, and would not say whether Kline was home at the time.

In Stillwater, Bachmann's home, garage and driveway were defaced with the words "Resign Now, Scum, Psalm 2" said spokeswoman Michelle Marston. Curiously, the graffiti also said "Vote No on the bailout." Bachmann was one of 171 members of Congress to vote against the $700 billion financial bailout package this month.

Kathryn Pearson, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota, said while the 2008 election cycle has been marked by exceptionally heated rhetoric, the graffiti incidents are in a category apart.

"This is very unusual and quite disturbing," Pearson said. "It's hard to know what to make of this, but this is just not the next step in anger about the state of the nation or the economy. I can't think of a time when so many members of a [congressional] delegation were targeted in this particular way."

The invocation of Psalm 2 also does little to shed light on possible motives. Sometimes called the coronation psalm, it refers to rulers who have displeased God and risk his wrath, said William Barnes, a professor of Hebrew and the Old Testament at North Central University in Minneapolis. "I took it to a meeting [of biblical scholars] today and we just don't know what to make of it," he said. "It's not something we've commonly seen used in a political context."

Psalm 2 in the King James version of the Bible reads in part: "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord ... the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath and vex them in his sore displeasure."

Barnes noted that the targets were a group that includes a Jew (Coleman), an evangelical Christian (Bachmann), and the nation's only Muslim congressman, Ellison. "It's just odd," he said.

Patrols increased

Panos said that officers will increase patrols near Coleman's home. He said no claims of responsibility have surfaced nor any indication of who may have struck Coleman's garage or why.

"It's frightening," Laurie Coleman said, standing in a light drizzle Wednesday morning, examining the damage. "It kind of takes your breath away," she said. "Sarah and I were home alone last night." Sarah Coleman is the couple's daughter, home on break from her freshman year at the University of Notre Dame.

Laurie Coleman said that her daughter had returned to the house about 10 p.m. on Tuesday and that the garage was unmarked at that time.

"It must have happened some time in the night," she said, a sweater wrapped around her as she held a cup of coffee. "We never heard anything."

She said a neighbor called early Wednesday to alert her to the damage.

Wednesday evening, Norm Coleman stood near the garage and told reporters, "This is not the expression of speech and democracy to be played out on my garage or Amy Klobuchar's garage."

"It does not reflect what Minnesotans are about, but perhaps what we see, in some ways, is emblematic of the anger that is out there," he said.

Panos said the department would have officers canvassing the neighborhood for information through the evening and would assign extra security to the Colemans' neighborhood.

Staff writers Paul Walsh, Kevin Diaz, Kevin Duchschere, Bob von Sternberg, Curt Brown and Pat Doyle contributed to this report.

Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288

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