Black Democratic chair gets lynching threat over Trump essay

Oct 19, 2021, 3:01 PM | Updated: 3:14 pm
People wait for a rally with former President Donald Trump to begin at the Iowa State Fairgrounds i...

People wait for a rally with former President Donald Trump to begin at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa., Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Thomas Beaumont)

(AP Photo/Thomas Beaumont)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The first Black chair of Iowa’s Democratic Party says he received a series of racist messages, including a lynching threat, after writing an opinion piece in a local newspaper criticizing former President Donald Trump and the state Republican officials who stood with him at a recent rally in Des Moines.

Ross Wilburn, who is also a state representative from Ames, reported the threatening phone and email messages to local police and state investigators. The messages came after The Des Moines Register’s online publication of Wilburn’s op-ed on Oct. 8, the day before thousands of Trump supporters gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the rally. Several in the crowd carried Confederate flags.

Wilburn’s experience is part of an uptick in racist and threatening communications aimed at Black leaders in Iowa and across the country, according to targets of the communications and a group that monitors them. The rise in threats against public officials began with the start of the pandemic as COVID-19 restrictions were implemented and continued through the divisive 2020 election, according to the Southern Law Poverty Law Center.

“With only some of our political leaders condemning that violence appropriately, these extremists are getting the message that making threats of violence is an acceptable way of doing business here,” said Michael Hayden, a researcher with the nonprofit group that tracks far-right figures and organizations.

Wilburn said he received an anonymous voicemail message at his home with the lynching threat on Oct. 9. A day later, Wilburn received another voicemail that included a racial epithet and a profanity-laden email to his state legislative account that also included the racist term, he said. Police confirmed Tuesday that they are investigating the messages sent to Wilburn.

The Register was the first to report on the messages.

Wilburn, party chair since January and a legislator since 2019, wrote in his op-ed that Trump “openly attacked the foundations of our democracy” by continuing to assert that widespread fraud had cost him the 2020 election, false claims that have been rejected by a succession of judges, by state election officials and by Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr. The claims led supporters of Trump to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, Wilburn noted.

But he took sharper aim at the Iowa Republicans who appeared at the Iowa rally, in particular Sen. Chuck Grassley and Gov. Kim Reynolds, saying they had “surrendered themselves” to Trump.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Wilburn said Trump hasn’t stood up to white nationalists who support him.

“What makes this particular set of incidents more intense is just the past few years, the willingness of certain individuals to be more vocal,” Wilburn said, referring to the threats to himself. “Layered innuendo comes forward with comments people make, I think, that has increased over the past few years.”

On Twitter, Grassley denounced racism and threats of violence to Wilburn, while Reynolds linked to an article about the threats to Wilburn and added, “This type of hate must never be tolerated.”

With a Black population of just 4% in 2020, Iowa ranks among the 10 whitest states in the country. Five members of the 150-seat Iowa Legislature are Black — just 3%.

Democratic Rep. Ross Smith, who is also Black, said Wilburn’s experience has become more familiar.

Smith, who represents Iowa City, says he has seen racist attempts at intimidation since he ran for the Iowa House in 2016. That year, he and other Black candidates received pamphlets from a group calling itself “The New KKK” that stated lynching is “for amateurs.”

“It’s not new. But the level of intensity has reached the next level,” said Smith, who is seeking his party’s nomination for governor.

Smith said he was threatened anonymously after arguing in 2017 against the now-law that allows armed Iowans to use deadly force in self-defense. Smith wore a hooded sweatshirt during a debate to make the point that clothes can prompt stereotypes, and he said he received a message saying that if he dresses that way, “you deserve whatever you get.”

Smith said Trump’s hesitation to condemn white nationalism allowed such behavior to fester. He noted Trump’s comment that there were “very fine people on both sides” after a white supremacist killed a counterprotester during violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

Deidre DeJear, the first Black person to win a statewide primary in Iowa when she ran for secretary of state in 2018, said anonymous acts of hate come from fear fomented by leaders at a time of uncertainty. The global pandemic and the wave of calls for racial justice have fueled anxiety, she said.

“We’ve got people feeding into those fears, especially given the uncertainty over the last 18 or 19 months,” said said DeJear, who is also a Democratic candidate for governor. “That’s unconscionable.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This combination of 2021 photos shows Philadelphia Eagles' Jason Kelce,, left, and Billie Eilish in...
Associated Press

‘Cheugy,’ ‘omicron’ among 2021’s most mispronounced words

“Cheugy” is apparently a lot to chew on. Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish and Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce have something in common — broadcasters butcher their names. And virtually everyone is having trouble with “omicron.” All four made it onto this year’s list of most mispronounced words as compiled by the U.S. Captioning Company, […]
24 hours ago
FILE - Voters sign in at Frank McCourt High School for New York's party primaries, June 22, 2021, i...
Associated Press

New York City poised to give voting rights to noncitizens

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City, long a beacon for immigrants, is on the cusp of becoming the largest places in the country to give noncitizens the right to vote in local elections. Legally documented, voting-age noncitizens comprise nearly one in nine of the city’s 7 million voting-age inhabitants. Under a bill nearing approval, […]
24 hours ago
Two Afghan men pray at a bus station in Herat, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, before they ...
Associated Press

Desperation drives thousands of Afghans a day across borders

HERAT, Afghanistan (AP) — Over the course of an hour on a recent night, the bus waiting in the Herat station filled with passengers. Mostly young men, they had no luggage, just the clothes on their backs, maybe a bag with some bread and water for the long road ahead of them. That road is […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Survivors gather to remember those lost at Pearl Harbor

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A few dozen survivors of Pearl Harbor are expected to gather Tuesday at the site of the Japanese bombing 80 years ago to remember those killed in the attack that launched the U.S. into World War II. Herb Elfring, 99, said he’s glad to return to Pearl Harbor considering he […]
24 hours ago
A man wearing a face mask walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in...
Associated Press

Asian stocks follow Wall Street higher as virus fears ease

BEIJING (AP) — Asia stock markets followed Wall Street higher Tuesday as anxiety about the coronavirus’s latest variant eased. Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong advanced. Oil prices gained for a second day. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index gained 1.2% after the chief White House medical adviser said the omicron variant might be less dangerous. […]
24 hours ago
People hold umbrellas as it begins to rain on an otherwise empty beach in Honolulu on Monday, Dec. ...
Associated Press

Dangerous storm threatens havoc across Hawaiian archipelago

HONOLULU (AP) — From the empty shores of Oahu’s Waikiki Beach to the snowy summit of the Big Island’s highest peak, an unusually strong winter storm is clobbering the Hawaiian Islands and raising the threat of dangerous flash floods, landslides and crashing tree limbs. The strong storm over the nation’s only island state left eloping […]
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Arizona State University

Gain insights on next year’s trends at 58th Annual Economic Forecast Luncheon

Employment is recovering from the severe contraction induced by the pandemic, but it is still way below levels at the start of 2020. Can it fully recover in the coming year?
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Why fall maintenance is important for your heating system and A/C

It’s easy to ignore your heater and air conditioner when they’re working but the moment something breaks, you will likely regret not keeping up with maintenance. After all, if something goes wrong, you may be stuck with a repair that will take longer and be more expensive than simple maintenance.
...
Schwartz Laser Eye Center

How to sharpen your vision with elective procedures

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning and being able to see clearly. You wouldn’t have to wait to put on glasses or contacts, and there would be no more blurry showers nor forgetting where your glasses are.
Black Democratic chair gets lynching threat over Trump essay