Supporters of Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., criticized House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for being a “phony white liberal,” praised Conyers for standing up for the Nation of Islam, characterized calls for Conyers’ resignation as racially motivated, and chanted “No justice, no peace” at a rally for “due process” Monday.
A group of Michigan lawmakers, ministers, and political activists rallied at the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit in support of the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, who is facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment. Several top Democrats in Congress have called on Conyers to resign.
“I know that the media may be looking for certain soundbites, but I want you to take from this morning that we’re here for due process,” said Rev. Wendell Anthony, the president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP.
One of the event’s organizers, state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, said that people are rushing to condemn Conyers out of prejudice.
"We know the balance of the work and contributions that Rep. John Conyers has made. He's certainly someone who has championed civil rights and he deserves due process," Gay-Dagnogo wrote in a Facebook post Sunday. “We always see a difference when the leader is a person of color. There's a rush to judgment."
"It tells us that African Americans are disposable and that's why people are not engaged in the political process. We're just used to help carry the vote and we're not going to accept that anymore," she said.
Speaking Monday, Gay-Dagnogo reiterated her point: “We’re calling on the moral core of this nation to not treat us any different than anyone else. That we deserve to select and elect our leaders. We deserve to not be cast aside and only used as the mule to carry the goat.”
Another speaker, ex-convict and political consultant Sam Riddle, dismissed Conyers accuser Deanna Maher as a “serial accuser,” and reminded the audience that Conyers has been an ally of the Nation of Islam and “black America.”
“One thing I want to make clear is the congressman stood tall for the Nation of Islam, for black America, for the disenfranchised who have been subjected to systemic racism. He’s done that all his life,” Riddle said.
“What we don’t seem to focus in on enough are the phony white liberals that take our support for granted,” he continued, to shouts of agreement and applause. “I just want you to know, Nancy Pelosi, I want you to know [Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.] that the reason, one of the reasons we lost Michigan and America to Donald Trump is because of your mis-leaderhip, Nancy Pelosi.”
“In Detroit, we fight back!” Riddle said, leading the crowd in a chant of “No justice, no peace.”
At least 12 House Democrats are calling on Conyers to step down as the House Ethics Committee investigates the sexual misconduct claims against him. Pelosi called the allegations “serious, disappointing, and very credible,” just a few days after referring to Conyers as an “icon.”
Allegations of the 88-year-old congressman’s sexual misconduct were brought to light last month when BuzzFeed News reported that Conyers’ office paid a female staffer $27,000 with taxpayer funds to quietly settle a dispute. The staffer had claimed she was fired after refusing his sexual advances.
Rep. Conyers was hospitalized last week, reportedly for a stress-related illness.
Watch the rally:
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