Is Anti-Government Anger Fueling Violence Against Census Workers?

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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.

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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