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LaRouche supporters draw ire of passers-by

Crude depiction of Obama angers some

Posted: October 17, 2009 8:19 p.m.
Updated: October 18, 2009 4:55 a.m.

LaRouche Political Action Commitee volunteers, Eric Thomas, left, and Charles Gracia talk to a man as he drops a letter in a mail box in front of the U.S. Post Office on Lyons Avenue on Friday. The two handed out literature informing passers-by of the organization's stance.

 
The sidewalk in front of the U.S. Post Office on Lyons Avenue served as the Santa Clarita Valley’s latest unlikely stage for a bizarre political drama.

There, Eric Thomas and Charles Gracia sat at a booth that would hardly have been noticeable — except for the large posters depicting President Barack Obama wearing a Hitler-style mustache.

“You want to stop Obama from killing Grandma?” Thomas asked James Russell, 67, as he passed by the booth.

“If you believe that, you’re crazier than I am,” Russell retorted as he stepped into the post office.

Thomas and Gracia are members of a fringe political group started by Lyndon LaRouche, an 87-year-old politician and self-styled economist who has become a perennial candidate for president.

LaRouche’s devout followers have set up shop throughout the Santa Clarita Valley over the last couple of months, outraging many local residents.

They’ve sat in front of spots like Whole Foods and Bristol Farms. They’ve shown up at Democratic Alliance for Action events and made a scene at Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon’s recent town hall meeting on health care.

On Friday, in front of the Newhall post office, the Nazi symbolism and extreme rhetoric upset scores of Santa Clarita Valley residents. But both Thomas and Gracia declined to be interviewed or give their ages to a reporter, saying they were under strict orders from the organization not to talk to the media.

The pair sat out there for hours.

While Gracia munched on a fast-food burrito, Thomas peppered passers-by with rhetoric.

“Obama isn’t a socialist — he’s a fascist,” Thomas told a man who stopped to talk.

One sign on the booth, with a large picture of Obama, read: “Stop your Hitler policy or we’ll impeach you.”

A LaRouche spokeswoman defended the display, saying the comparison between Obama’s health care plans and Hitler’s genocide is fair because it starts a conversation on how the two policies are similar.

“It raises the right question: What’s the similarity between Obama’s health care policy and Hitler’s?” said LaRouche health care spokeswoman Nancy Spannaus.

“It’s poetic, if you will. A true symbol.”

Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami said he received a handful of calls from people in his congregation who were offended by the LaRouche message and the use of Nazi imagery. He said the goal appears to be offending people, adding that he isn’t surprised people have reduced the political discourse to pure shock value.

“Using such a ridiculous juxtaposition diminishes the evil of Hitler and overemphasizes any legitimate problem someone has with President Obama,” Blazer said.

Back at the post office, those who saw the booth gave voice to their anger.

“I thought LaRouche was dead. I’m sorry he’s not,” Russell said. “These are just a handful of fearful, hateful people and they don’t reflect Santa Clarita as a whole.”

After receiving a text message from a friend, Ginger Simpson drove down to the post office to confront the LaRouche supporters in person.

“I can’t ignore them. What they’re doing is rude,” said the 18-year resident of the Santa Clarita Valley. “(Obama) is our president. He deserves better.”

Before answering her cell phone and leaving the post office, Simpson had one more exchange with Gracia.

“This is offensive,” Simpson said. “I think you’re off your medication.”

“I’m not on any medication,” Gracia said.

“Well,” Simpson replied, “maybe that’s the problem.”

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