John Lewis

The protests against healthcare reform took an ugly turn on Saturday. Black congressmen told reporters that demonstrators called them the N-word and one representative said he was spat upon.

“This is not the first time the congressman has been called the N-word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans,” said a statement from the office of Democratic Representative Emanuel Cleaver.

“That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name-calling and spitting.”

The statement said the man suspected of spitting on Cleaver was quickly arrested by police but that the congressman would not press charges.

The confrontations came as Democratic House members were going to the Capitol to hear President Barack Obama rally members to vote for the healthcare overhaul, which Democratic leaders predict will be passed in a House vote on Sunday. A crowd of at least 100 loud, sign-toting protesters gathered around the representatives.