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An unexpected result for some census takers: the wrath of irate Americans
"It's the degree of passion they have," he said. "When they don't want to participate, they really don't want to participate."
In the Washington area, the threats made to census takers have been infrequent, and no one has been harmed.
Some of the attacks elsewhere represent random violence, such as a robbery at knifepoint in Richmond, Va., and a carjacking in Connecticut. In some situations, the job turned unexpectedly dangerous, as for the Baltimore crew leader who was fatally shot seven times while sitting in his car and the Wisconsin census taker who knocked on the door of a man who tried to drag her into his apartment.
Other workers were beset by mean-tempered animals. Wendy Soto, who was knocking on doors in California, still can't move two fingers after being attacked by a pit bull that pushed open a security door.
Among the more troubling were incidents that arose from residents' seething resentment that anyone from the government would seek their personal information.
Some people pointedly mentioned President Obama.
While conducting follow-ups in an upscale Seattle neighborhood, Grover Ellis said he came across a woman who considered him an agent of Obama, not the U.S. government.
"The idea of the census just enraged her," said Ellis, 64, stressing that the overwhelming majority of people he met were welcoming and responsive. "The way she saw the census, she was required to help Obama. And she wasn't going to do anything to help out Obama."
Police have been dispatched after confrontations between census takers and property owners who posted No Trespassing signs. As federal government employees, the census takers are not breaking the law by disregarding the signs.
But try telling that to a homeowner with a crossbow.
In a rural part of California's Nevada County northeast of Sacramento, two census workers told authorities that a man ordered them off his land. He mentioned his submachine gun, then followed them down the drive with a crossbow in hand. No charges were brought against the resident, the sheriff's department said.
A homeowner in Marion, Ohio, called police, saying he had just used his baseball bat against a stranger on his property. The perceived interloper was a census taker who told police the resident flew off the handle as soon as he mentioned the word census. The census taker was struck in the forearm, warding off blows from the aluminum bat. The resident was charged with felonious assault.