Giffords’s Office Was Vandalized by Followers of Former Militia Leader

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Mike Vanderboegh, a former 1990s militia leader from Alabama, enouraged readers of his blog to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic offices during the debate over President Obama’s health care bill last spring. One of the offices attacked was that of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at a rally in a Tucson supermarket today.

Police have said the unidentified gunman, who shot Giffords at in the head at close range, along with several other people at the event, is in custody. (My colleague Suzy Khimm reports on his history of antigovernment rantings here.) He has not been identified or linked to any movement or group. According to the Tucson Citizen, police have arrested a second suspect and are seeking a third.

The Washington Post reported on the vandalism at Giffords’s office on March 25, 2010:

“In the days that followed [Vanderboegh’s post], glass windows and doors were shattered at local Democratic Party offices and the district offices of House Democrats from Arizona to Kansas to New York. At least 10 Democratic lawmakers reported death threats, incidents of harassment or vandalism at their offices over the past week, and the FBI and Capitol Police are offering lawmakers increased protection.

Local Democratic Party officials in New York have called for Vanderboegh’s arrest, believing he is implicated in the vandalism in Rochester, but Vanderboegh said he has not yet been questioned by any law enforcement authorities.

Vanderboegh was unapologetic in a 45-minute telephone interview with The Washington Post early Thursday. He said he believes throwing bricks through windows sends a warning to Democratic lawmakers that the health-care reform legislation they passed Sunday has caused so much unrest that it could result in a civil war.

“The federal government should not have the ability to command us to buy something that it decides we should buy,” Vanderboegh said. The government, he added, has “absolutely no idea the number of alienated who feel that their backs are to the wall are out here . . . who are not only willing to resist this law to the very end of their lives, but are armed and are capable of making such resistance possible and perhaps even initiating a civil war.”… He said his call for people to throw bricks is “both good manners and it’s also a moral duty to try to warn people.”

ADDENDUM, 11:55 p.m.:  In an email to me this evening, Vanderboegh wrote the following:

Kindly go over my call to break the windows of LOCAL DEMOCRAT PARTY HEADQUARTERS and find just once where I called for anybody to break the windows of Congresscritters. 

(I had originally written that he called for followers to break the windows of Democratic members of Congress who supported the healthcare bill.) Readers can make up their own minds about Vanderboegh’s call to action by reading his original blog post here:

So, if you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows.

Break them NOW.

Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight. Break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks. Break them with slingshots. Break them with baseball bats. But BREAK THEM.

Read our exclusive interview with a friend who describes Loughner’s family, bizarre dream journal, and his obsession with Rep. Giffords. Full coverage of the shooting and its aftermath is here.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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