HARRISBURG - Rep. Angel Cruz said yesterday that he has asked Capitol Police to investigate whether any laws were broken when two participants in a gun-rights rally held up a banner calling for him to be "hung from the tree of liberty."
If police determine that criminal charges are warranted, "then we'll take it from there," said Cruz, of Philadelphia. "We live in strange times, and we take all threats seriously, because we just don't know who's capable of doing what."
Cruz said he also hoped to find a way to prevent similar actions from happening again.
At a news conference yesterday, Gov. Rendell decried the violent sentiment and racist overtones in the banner's language, but said he did not support a state police investigation into the incident.
"I prefer to use the state police to protect people," Rendell said. "Rep. Cruz should take it for its worth and understand that there are people out there who say inappropriate things. He should let it go."
A spokesman for Capitol Police, Edward Myslewicz, said that no formal complaint had been filed yesterday, but that police would investigate if they received one.
The banner was displayed in the Capitol Rotunda during Tuesday's rally to protest legislation sponsored by Cruz, a Democrat of Puerto Rican descent, to require gun registration and a $10-a-gun annual fee. The banner said Cruz "should be hung from the tree of liberty for treasonous acts against the constitution."
Black lawmakers have denounced the message as racist and "a terroristic threat."
One of the protesters who held the banner, Alan Kiser of Warren, said yesterday that an investigation would be "totally frivolous."
"I didn't even know the color of the guy's skin," Kiser said.
Cruz has said he introduced his bill to address escalating gun violence in Philadelphia.
Cruz's bill is not likely to go anywhere because gun owners claim strong support from leaders and rank-and-file members of both parties in the House. Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese has promised to consign it "to oblivion."