Anti-Obama sign at Saturday's rally in Washington (AFP Photo)

Racism and anti-gay bigotry reared their ugly heads Saturday as Tea Party participants protested the health care vote that is scheduled for a historic vote Sunday.

Protesters taunted openly-day Democratic Congressman Barney Frank with “faggot,” “homo” and other homophobic slurs and called African-American Georgia Congressman John Lewis a “nigger” as he left the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill.

“They were shouting, sort of harassing,” Lewis told reporter William Douglas of McClatchy Newspapers. “But it’s OK. I’ve faced this before. It reminded me of the 60s. It was a lot of downright hate and anger and people being downright mean.”

Frank told The Boston Globe that he is “disappointed with the unwillingness to be civil. I was, I guess, surprised by the rancor. “People out there today, on the whole, were really hateful.”

The racism and bigotry in Saturday’s protest is not unusual for tea party gatherings where hate often surfaces. Signs with racial epithets and hate were spotted at Tea Bag events in Southwestern Virginia last year. I too often hear racist slurs from the lips of those who support the Tea Party movement.

Texas Tea Party Leader Dale Robertson

Tea Baggers dismiss the presence of racists and homophobes in their midst with claims that every movement has its fringes. Yet those who claim they have no sympathies for racists in their midst have had a hard time explaining the racist sign that Texas Tea Party activist (and founder of the TeaParty.Org web site) Dale Robertson displayed in on rally.

Some in the movement claim Robertson was acting on his own and has been expelled from the movement. Robertson claims otherwise.

I’ve attended a number of Tea Party events and run into too many who use words like “nigger” and “spic” and “fag” as part of their normal conversation. And while Tea Party organizers say they do not support or tolerate racism or bigotry, we have yet to see a single waver of signs using racial slurs escorted from a Tea Party event.

At a Tea Party event in Rocky Mount last year, some waved signs supporting defeated GOP Congressman Virgil Goode, who brought national embarrassment on Virginia with his openly racist and homophobic remarks.

One is judged by the company one keeps.

Here are some other signs and posters displayed at Tea Party gatherings:

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