Shooting and threats as Obama widens gap

Thursday October 9 2008

US Democratic presidential nominee Senator

US Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks at a campaign rally at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis October 8, 2008. Photo/REUTERS 

By AGENCIES

The stakes were raised dramatically in the US Presidential election Thursday as it was confirmed the Secret Service was investigating a cry of ‘Kill Obama’ at a rally addressed by his Republican rival John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin.

At the same time, a man wearing an Obama T-shirt was shot three times in a London street.

The violence comes amid major gains by the Democratic candidate, Mr Obama, in the polls.

And it follows the arrests of three men, who allegedly had said they wanted to kill the candidate when he made his acceptance speech at Denver, Colorado in August.

Drug abuse

The three who were also held on drug abuse charges, and were members of a right wing white supremacist group, were found to have hunting rifles and camouflage clothing in a truck they were using.

In London, Daily Mail reported that Nigerian Dube Egwuatu was shot on a street in South Norwood by a white man, who had threatened to kill him.

Mr Egwuatu, 36, a civil servant, was buying a mobile telephone top-up card when the gunman confronted him and glared at the shirt, which had Obama‘s image underneath the legend, ‘Believe.’ The attacker then launched into a tirade of racist slurs, shouting insults and urging the civil servant to leave the shop with him.

The attacker left the shop, but later accosted Mr Egwuatu as he walked to his car. The attacker was waiting for him in broad daylight with fierce-looking dog and holding a gun behind his back, the paper said.

Realising what had sparked the increasingly violent assault, Mr Egwuatu zipped up his jacket to cover Obama’s image and walked to his car.

But the clean-shaven man followed Mr Egwuatu and after pulling open the passenger door, pointed the gas-powered gun at him.

After pleading with the man to leave him alone, Mr Egwuatu put the keys in the ignition and turned the engine on. The attacker fired the pistol three times, hitting the civil servant in the face, hand and shoulder.

Fearing for his life and bleeding heavily, Egwuatu raced away in his car and found somewhere safe to call for help. He was taken to hospital and later sent to have a piece of metal removed from his jaw.

Going to kill you

Mr Egwuatu, a data analyst, said, ‘‘The venom in his voice was frightening. He was telling me that he was going to kill me. I couldn‘t believe it was happening — and just because I was wearing an Obama T-shirt. He was trying to make me walk somewhere quieter, saying, ‘I‘ve got something for you,‘ and ‘I‘m going to kill you.”

The shocked Mr Egwuatu added, ‘‘Obama inspires me, his educational track record alone is quite unbelievable... I did not think for one minute it (the T-shirt) could stir up such powerful feelings of hatred and I never said a word to him.”

In the US, the Secret Service was following up reports that someone in the crowd at a McCain-Palin made a death threat against Mr Obama, according to Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley.

A shout of “kill him” followed a Sarah Palin rant on Mr Obama’s relationship with radical Chicagoan Bill Ayers.

Mr Wiley says the Secret Service did not begin looking into the matter until an article appeared in The Washington Post, reporting the chant , because no agents at the event heard anything. “The Secret Service did not hear any threatening statements directed at targets under its protection and no threatening statements were reported to us by law enforcement or citizens at the event,” Mr Wiley said.

Also he said it was unclear whether the remark was directed at Obama or Ayers.

In the latest instance of inflammatory outbursts at McCain-Palin rallies, a crowd member screamed “treason!” on Tuesday after Sarah Palin accused Barack Obama of criticising US troops. “(Obama) said, too, that our troops in Afghanistan are ‘air raiding villages and killing civilians,’’ Ms Palin said, mischaracterising a 2007 remark by Mr Obama. “I hope Americans know that is not what our brave men and women in uniform are doing in Afghanistan. The US military is fighting terrorism and protecting us and protecting our freedom,” she said.

Shortly afterward, a male member of the crowd in Jacksonville, Florida, yelled “Treason!” loudly enough to be picked up by television microphones.

In a new survey, Mr Obama has notched up his widest national opinion poll lead so far as he continued to hammer out his message on the single issue that now looks certain to decide the US presidential campaign — the economy.

The Gallup organisation, whose daily tracking poll indicated 52 per cent of registered voters supported the Democratic candidate, against 41 per cent for Mr McCain, said it appeared the economy was playing to Mr Obama’s advantage.

Mr Obama, who is aggressively targeting once-safe Republican states such as Indiana, on Wednesday sought to wrap himself and his economic policies in the US flag. The last time a Democratic candidate won Indiana was in 1964.

“At each and every moment, we have risen to meet these challenges — not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans,” he told a rally in Indianapolis. “With that fundamental belief that, here in America, our destiny is not written for us, but by us. That’s who we are, and that’s the country we need to be right now.”

The survey was based almost entirely on soundings taken before Tuesday night’s Presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee, which separate polls said favoured Mr Obama. The Republican campaign had tried to switch attention to other issues, but, with newspapers and television carrying reports of soaring levels of psychological stress afflicting Americans, focus was almost entirely on the financial crisis.

Mr Obama poured scorn on Mr McCain’s attempts to “turn the page” on the economy. “His campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose’,” he told the Indianapolis rally.

“Well I’ve got news for John McCain. This isn’t about losing a campaign; this is about Americans who are losing their jobs, and their homes and their life savings.”

Mr McCain’s best shot on the economy during Tuesday night’s debate was a $300bn housing rescue plan in which he proposed a wholesale government buy-out of bad mortgages.

McCain’s plan would involve the Treasury buying mortgages directly from homeowners and renegotiating their terms. (Reuters)