Is Anti-Government Anger Fueling Violence Against Census Workers?


Earlier this year, anti-government activists had mounted a crusade against the Census as a constitutional invasion of privacy—even threatening violence against Census takers. “I dare them to try and come throw me in jail…Pull out my wife’s shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door,” RedState blogger and CNN commentator Erick Erickson said in April.

Now, a new report from the US Census Bureau reveals that more than 113 census workers have been assaulted or attacked since April 1—a number that’s significantly higher than the last US Census ten years ago. According to the Washington Post, the incidents involved “29 threats involving a gun, four robberies and three instances of being held against their will or carjacked.” In one incident, a California woman who aimed a shotgun at a census taker on her doorstep was subsequently killed in a confrontation with police officers. In another incident, a 14-year-old carjacked and kidnapped a worker sitting in a car clearly marked with a Census Bureau sign. The Census has hired 635,000 people as temporary workers to follow up with people who didn’t send back their questionnaire by the end of April.

The report from the Census Bureau came at the request of Rep. Carolyn Mahoney (D-NY), who wanted to determine whether the attacks on Census workers were the sign of a larger trend. It’s unclear whether any of these recent threats and attacks against census workers were politically motivated. But it’s clear violent threats against public officials have escalated on the whole, with the FBI reporting a recent surge in death threats against lawmakers. And when a government worker comes calling, some US residents aren’t hesitating to bring a shotgun to the door.

Fact:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now
  • Suzy Khimm was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones from March 2010 until June 2011. For more of her stories, click here. Follow her on Twitter here.