“Yesterday morning a violent man broke into our family home, demanded to confront me and brutally attacked my husband Paul,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to House members Saturday night. “Our children, our grandchildren and I are heartbroken and traumatized by the potentially fatal attack on our Pop.”
Just days before the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising, protesters defaced Pelosi’s mansion with spray paint and left a pig’s head in front, apparently angry at the size of a stimulus package against the coronavirus. Later that year, activists stuck an eviction notice on his door calling for an extension of a federal moratorium on evictions.
In 2007, anti-war protesters held a day vigil outside his home to denounce the war in Iraq.
On Friday morning, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott told reporters that officers arrived at the home early that morning and found suspects David DePape and Paul Pelosi clutching a hammer, which DePape has then used to hit Pelosi.
Nancy Pelosi was in Washington at the time of the attack, but DePape allegedly shouted “Where’s Nancy?” after breaking into the house from the back, echoing a chant used by Capitol rioters on January 6.
Scott pointed out that the Capitol Police were primarily responsible for protecting the speaker. But he condemned the violence against elected officials and their relatives.
“Their families don’t sign up for this, to get hurt,” Scott said. “It’s wrong.”
By Saturday morning, Pelosi’s block no longer looked like an active crime scene. The police gang had gone down and there was only one police car left. But the neighbors were still figuring out what had happened.
Interior designer Natalie Loggins has grown accustomed over the years to Pelosi’s presence drawing protests. She saw the anti-war protesters and heard about the severed pig’s head. A break-in and an assault, she said, were on an entirely different scale.
“It goes way beyond breaking and entering and hurting somebody,” Loggins said, adding that she was “really disgusted, of course, that there could be this type of violence against elected officials and their family”.
Researchers and elected officials argue that the tenor of animosity directed at Pelosi has become darker and more dangerous as she has become a symbol of national Democrats. They say the political attacks on Pelosi have fueled extremist hatred.
Brian Levin, who directs the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, said in an interview that he’s been following “a real toxic brew that’s different than it was even in recent years,” with conspiracy theorists, often stoked on social media, directing their anger at an “intertwined and tethered set of villains” in public life. Pelosi figures prominently among them.
“Now we see eliminationist language,” Levin said. “It’s not just, ‘Nancy Pelosi has failed in her policies, don’t make America like San Francisco. Now it’s, ‘Nancy Pelosi and her ilk are existential enemies who must be eliminated.’ »
Although DePape doesn’t explicitly mention Pelosi in a pair of websites, his writings suggest he’s marinated in a toxic stew of online conspiracy theories like QAnon’s account that a powerful cabal of elites – often including Pelosi – child abuse.