Gov. Pat McCrory Sunday called the weekend firebombing of a North Carolina Republican headquarters “an attack on our democracy,” while one GOP official called it an act of “political terrorism.”
In a tweet, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump blamed “Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina.”
Hillsborough police said somebody threw a bottle of flammable liquid through the window of Orange County’s GOP headquarters, setting campaign signs, supplies and furniture ablaze before burning itself out.
A swastika and “Nazi Republicans get out of town or else” were spray painted on the side of an adjacent building. No damage estimates were available.
“The firebombing of a local political headquarters in Orange County is clearly an attack on our democracy,” McCrory said in a statement. “Violence has no place in our society – but especially in our elections. … I will use every resource as governor to assist local authorities in this investigation.”
Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said, “This highly disturbing act goes far beyond vandalizing property; it willfully threatens our community’s safety … and its hateful message undermines decency, respect and integrity in civic participation.”
Hillsborough police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were continuing to investigate. The incident took place in Orange County, home of the University of North Carolina in nearby Chapel Hill.
The county is overwhelmingly Democratic. Democrats and independents outnumber Republicans 5-1.
While Democrats condemned the bombing, Trump tweeted: “Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning @NCGOP.”
But Clinton’s campaign tweeted, “The attack on the Orange County HQ @NCGOP office is horrific and unacceptable. Very grateful that everyone is safe.”
The North Carolina Republican Party responded, “Thank you for your thoughts & prayers, Sec. @HillaryClinton.” Later, the party responded to Trump, “Thank you Mr. @realDonaldTrump. We will not be silenced nor suppressed by this evil act. We will pray for those who seek to harm us.”
North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Patsy Keever called the bombing “outrageous.”
“The North Carolina Democratic Party strongly condemns this attack,” she said. “Violence has no place in our political system. … Our deepest sympathies are with everyone at the North Carolina Republican Party.”
Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper tweeted, “Violence has no place in our democracy and can not be tolerated. The culprits must be caught and brought to justice.”
Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state GOP, called the bombing “political terrorism.”
“The office itself is a total loss,” he said. “The only thing important to us is that nobody was killed, and they very well could have been.”
Later, Woodhouse said, “Whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, all Americans should be outraged by this hate-filled and violent attack against our democracy. … Everyone in this country should be free to express their political viewpoints without fear for their own safety.”
The flaming bottle, which Woodhouse described as a significant Molotov cocktail, and bomb, was thrown through a window that bore the words “Freedom spoken here.”
“This is a horrific, horrific act of political terrorism, one that we will not succumb to and one that we will answer,” he said. “When people try to stifle freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, you must come back with more speech and aggressively defend your rights.”
Woodhouse also mentioned the graffiti that said “Nazi Republicans leave town or else.”
“Or else what? That is what we all wonder, or else what,” he said. “Because we’re not going anywhere.”
Woodhouse said a van had already been brought in from Durham, and campaigners would go back to work in the heavily Democratic county.
Volunteer Bob Randall was there to clean up Sunday. He said he believes that the bombing was an act of political terrorism and that it would get people angry and motivated to vote Republican.
“The idea is to intimidate us, to make us crawl back in the shadows,” he said. “But I think it’s going to backfire on them.”
The incident comes barely three weeks before an election marked by heightened tensions and passion on both sides.
On Sunday the Bangor Daily News reported that about 20 cars were vandalized with spray paint outside a Saturday rally for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Earlier this year violence broke out with protesters at a Trump rally in Chicago. And one protester was sucker-punched at a Trump rally in Fayetteville.
“You hope (the firebombing) is an isolated incident,” said Ferrel Guillory, a political analyst at UNC Chapel Hill. “It always happens that toward the end of the campaign, emotions get both frayed and intensified.”
The Rev. William J. Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, condemned the act. Barber told the Associated Press, “While vigorous debate on issues is acceptable, we in the NAACP denounce any kind of violence that is perpetrated toward our citizens or any political party.”
Woodhouse said he’s sending an advisory to county Republican offices across the state warning them to take extra caution.
Anyone with information is asked to call the police department’s tip line at 919-732-3975.
The (Raleigh) News & Observer’s Chris Cioffi and The Associated Press contributed.