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Congresswoman blames cop for incident

A lawyer for Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the Georgia congresswoman who had a physical altercation with a Capitol Police officer, says she was “just a victim of being in Congress while black.”
Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., center, walks out of the Capitol on Thursday. McKinney is awaiting word on whether she will be charged for allegedly hitting a Capitol Police officer in the chest.Lauren Victoria Burke / W111
/ Source: The Associated Press

Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the Georgia congresswoman who had an altercation with a Capitol Police officer, said Friday the officer started the incident by “inappropriately touching and stopping” her after she walked past a security checkpoint.

McKinney, speaking at a news conference where she was joined by singer Harry Belafonte and actor Danny Glover, said she understands that a case against her may be referred for prosecution but declared that she will be exonerated.

“Let me be clear. This whole incident was instigated by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female black congresswoman,” McKinney said. “I deeply regret that this incident occurred.”

McKinney, a Democrat, declined to discuss the incident further since she still may be charged with striking the officer after she entered a House office building this week unrecognized and did not stop when asked. She and her two lawyers refused to say whether she hit the officer or how he touched her inappropriately.

Two law enforcement officials said it was unlikely a warrant would be issued this week. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

James W. Myart Jr., one of McKinney’s lawyers, said he will be seeking an investigation against the officer, who has not been identified.

Lawyer: ‘Excessive use of force’
“Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, like thousands of average Americans across this country, is, too, a victim of the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials because of how she looks and the color of her skin,” he said.

Belafonte and Glover said they were there as a show of support for the fiery six-term congresswoman.

“She alone has stood up for issues that are important to this country and important to the world,” Glover said. “We’re not here to judge the merits of the case; we’re here to support our sister.”

A spokeswoman for U.S. Capitol Police did not return a call seeking comment.

Members of Congress wear identifying lapel pins and routinely are waved into buildings without undergoing security checks. McKinney was not wearing her pin at the time, and the officer apparently did not recognize her, she has said.

“Congresswoman McKinney, in a hurry, was essentially chased and grabbed by the officer,” Myart said. “She reacted instinctively in an effort to defend herself.”

Several Capitol Police officials have said the officer involved asked McKinney three times to stop. When she did not, he placed a hand on her and she hit him, they said.

Makeover cited
In a draft of a statement that McKinney did not release, she said the officer “body-blocked” her during the incident, and she blamed his failure to recognize her on a recent makeover.

“It is ... a shame that while I conduct the country’s business, I have to stop and call the police to tell them that I’ve changed my hairstyle so that I’m not harassed at work,” McKinney said in the draft, which was obtained by WSB-TV of Atlanta and posted on its Web site.

An official close to McKinney said the statement was a “work product” never intended to be released. McKinney had issued a statement late Wednesday saying she regretted the confrontation.

“I know that Capitol Hill Police are securing our safety, and I appreciate the work that they do. I have demonstrated my support for them in the past and I continue to support them now,” she said in the statement on her Web site.

The department is tasked with protecting the 535 members of Congress and the vast Capitol complex in an atmosphere thick with politics and privilege.

The safety of its members became a sensitive issue after a gunman in 1998 killed two officers outside the office of then-Republican Whip Tom DeLay of Texas.

In January, during President Bush’s State of the Union address, Capitol Police drew criticism for first kicking antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan out of the House gallery, and then for evicting the wife of Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla.