CONCORD, NH, USA—US presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard’s town hall in Concord, New Hampshire degenerated into a brawl as campaign staff assaulted protestors who silently unfurled signs accusing her of whitewashing India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The congresswoman was scheduled to speak at the January 8 event, but announced the night before that she was returning to Washington, D.C. “due to last minute scheduled briefings and votes related to stopping further escalation of war with Iran.” She participated via live-stream, taking questions from the sparse audience. Moments after local politician Eric Gallagher asked Gabbard’s opinion about ongoing protests in India against the Citizenship Amendment Act, six people stepped to the front holding signs with slogans including “Tulsi: Mascot of India’s KKK.”
Campaign staff immediately charged and tackled one of the protestors. Deputy National Campaign Director Caitlin Pomerantz and volunteer Daniel Martinez were caught on camera hustling protestor Pieter Friedrich out of the event. “I’m being assaulted,” he shouts as they grab him. “Do not touch me. Let go of me.” As he is shoved out the room, he shouts, “Tulsi Gabbard whitewashes Modi’s fascist forces in India.”
“I’ve filed a police report and hope to press charges,” wrote Friedrich on Twitter. An analyst of South Asian affairs who recently published a cover article in India’s Caravan magazine regarding Gabbard’s association with the RSS, he also Tweeted, “The people who attacked me have been identified not only as Gabbard campaign staffers, but also as members of her Islamophobic and homophobic Hawaiian cult, the Science of Identity Foundation. The physical violence they used illustrates SIF’s vicious tactics for suppressing opposition to any of its members who pursue political office — which is a key part of their agenda.”
“We don’t want a repeat of the Holocaust,” said Amin Zama, president of the Boston chapter of Indian American Muslim Council. While holding a “Tulsi: Tell Us About RSS” sign, he added, “RSS, which is behind the BJP government ruling India right now, is behind everything. Tulsi gets support from RSS.”
As the town hall ended, Zahir Adil of Justice For All passed out flyers headlined: “Save India From Indian Fascists.” The flyer warned that Washington, D.C.-based organization, Genocide Watch, has issued two Genocide Alerts for India. “RSS based its ideology on the ideas of racial purity preached by German Nazis and fascists in the 1930s and 40s,” claimed the flyer. “During World War II, the RSS openly supported Adolf Hitler…. RSS is a bit like the SS of Nazi Germany, only more powerful, semi-secret, and extremely dangerous.”
“The RSS is a terrorist organization that has slaughtered Christians and Muslims in the streets of India,” explains Brian Wright, an associate director of Organization for Minorities of India. “Their vision is to turn the country into a Hindu nation where it’s illegal to convert to any other religion. The only thing American politicians should be doing with the RSS is condemning them.”
“It’s heartening to see spreading protests against Tulsi Gabbard’s collaboration with the RSS and the BJP,” remarks OFMI’s Arvin Valmuci. “This is the fourth time she’s been protested over her ties to those extremist groups. We agree with the protestors that Congresswoman Gabbard has a track record of pay to play with India’s fascists. We call for her immediate resignation and for the Congressional Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into the foreign interference in her congressional campaigns.”