Security Getting Closer Look in Wake of Shootings
January 10, 2011
By Katherine Skiba
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush said Monday he would move his district office to a safer neighborhood, and Sen. Mark Kirk planned to attend a town hall meeting with extra protection in the wake of the weekend shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
But some other members of Illinois' congressional delegation did not anticipate security changes.
"In terms of curtailing my activities or having protection, that wouldn't work," Rep. Mike Quigley said.
Quigley, a Democrat from the North Side, recalled that as a Cook County commissioner he received a death threat and that when he ran unsuccessfully for alderman in 1991, he was thrown from an "L" platform onto the tracks by a "crazed person" but scrambled to safety. Since becoming a member of Congress in 2009, he has fielded highly emotional phone calls but no death threats.
"Having 24-hour security is wildly expensive and impractical," Quigley said. "This is the 'People's House,' and we'd be severely limited walking around with a security person. It's critical to communicate with voters."
Rush, a Democrat who represents the South Side and suburbs, said the Arizona shooting spree has prompted him to hear the pleadings of his staffers and agree to move his congressional office, at 700 E. 79th St., out of the area. Rush said there were two or three killings near the office last year and a constituent was mugged on the way to a forum there. Rush has another office in Midlothian.
"There's an increased level of alarm and concern by most members of Congress," Rush said.
Kirk said he planned to go ahead with a town hall meeting Monday night in Collinsville with a fellow Republican, Rep. John Shimkus — with "an extra cop or two on hand." Shimkus is from Collinsville.
Kirk, who entered the Senate in November after serving in the House, said he had been threatened in the past and had to alert police in Highland Park, where he lives. He hopes the Arizona tragedy has a silver lining: making the political discourse more civil.
"The primary blame was this gunman who went psycho," he said. "But if we can use this as an opportunity to create a more genteel space, there will be a silver lining in what is otherwise a national tragedy."
Republican Rep. Judy Biggert of Hinsdale said a caller a few years back told an office intern that he had "taken some bullets in Vietnam" and he had some for Biggert.
She then alerted Capitol Police — and told her husband to turn on the security alarm. An investigation showed that the caller, from another state, was a mentally ill person who had not taken his medication, she said.
She noted that she doesn't hold outdoor "Congress on Your Corner"-type events like the one Giffords was attending when she was shot in the head, six people were slain and several others wounded.
Biggert, who said she had 14 town halls from September to the November midterm elections, holds sessions in government buildings and requires attendees to sign in.
Some reaction from other Illinois representatives:
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Manteno, who took office last week, won't cancel future constituent meet-and-greets but said: "We're going to be more vigilant, and internally, we're figuring out if there are going to be changes."
• Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski of Western Springs said he had been targeted by harsh language like "watch your back" but never felt physically threatened. He said the shootings would make him and his aides more watchful. Already he's had police on hand at town hall meetings "more for the purposes of crowd control."
• A spokesman for Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of the South Side said the lawmaker is frequently accompanied by security personnel at public events and any decisions on new measures would not be made public.
• A spokesman for Democratic Rep. Danny Davis of the West Side said Sunday that Davis received an e-mail warning that someone else might be a threat. It was reported to authorities, spokesman Ira Cohen said, declining to elaborate.
• Republican Rep. Joe Walsh, a freshman from McHenry, said he hired a bodyguard during the campaign because "there were things said that made me want to be as careful as we could be." He said the Giffords shooting probably would make him more intent on meeting voters. "It's important that all members of Congress … don't let some very sick, deranged, young 22-year-old man who committed an atrocity change the way we do business."
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