The usually calm meeting of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, held this week in 2000, turned into a dangerous and potentially violent row. Earl Pomeroy, the Representative from North Dakota, was one of the participants. As the committee was holding a hearing about trade relations with China, the event was suddenly interrupted by an angry and violent member of the audience.
Rushing toward a table being used by Commerce Secretary William Daly, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and others, the unknown man broke a soda bottle while shouting “I am going to kill myself – I will be heard.”
Pomeroy, seated on the dais, quickly ran down to help security guards control the protester. A lobbyist for the American Soybean Association specifically praised Pomeroy as “very brave” and added that the congressman moved quickly while everyone else in the room seemed stunned … frozen in place.
The disruptor with the jagged-edged bottle was subdued, but appeared to have targeted trade representative Barshefsky. Department of Agriculture undersecretary Gus Schumacher praised Pomeroy and said, “What he did particularly was make sure the bottle was away from Barshefsky, so she was not harmed. He acted with great courage.”
The Grand Forks Herald story of the incident reported that the angry intruder was identified as a native of the Republic of Georgia and was a naturalized Australian citizen who had been living in New York City. He was arraigned in U.S. Federal Court charged with assaulting a federal police officer.
Reporters on the scene noted his disruption appeared to have nothing to do with China trade relations, which was the reason for the meeting.
The incident was reported on CNN, and a Pomeroy spokesman said the congressman was the subject of many calls from the media regarding his action during the incident. Happily, there were no injuries.
Dakota Datebook by Steve Stark
Sources: Grand Forks Herald, May 18, 2000