Anti-Muslim Display Angered West Virginia Delegates at State Capitol

formulanone from Huntsville, United States [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

House Minority Whip injured a doorkeeper

Delegates who reached the upper rotunda at the Charleston House Chamber entrance were greeted by anger over a display of anti-Muslim imagery. The same content was also printed in the handouts received by the delegates. Things got so out of hand that Roger Hanshaw, the House Speaker and a Republican elected from Clay, West Virginia was forced to leave his podium and give a speech to the House members. These came after several consecutive events injured the doorkeeper and forced the resignation of house Sergeant at Arms.

It all began on March 1, when the Legislature celebrated WVGOP day with displays set up by the Republicans. The list included huge campaign signs promoting the current U.S. President and GOP member Donald Trump. The GOP was not alone in putting up signs. Other tables were set up adjacent to the Republic ones. There were publicity materials printed by ACT! For America. The latter terms itself America’s biggest grassroots level national security organization. It has taken well-publicized positions against fundamentalist Islamic extremism and dipped its fingers in immigration reform and refugee controls.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), however, lists ACT! For America as a hate group targeting Muslims. As per the SPLC, the group actively pushes conspiracy theories. It also lumps together extremist and moderate Islam. The table maintained by this group included multiple provocative pamphlets against permitting refugees to set foot on U.S. soil. It also warned people about dangers associated with the Islamic faith. A particularly provocative poster was of the September 11 tragedy fixed atop a photograph of Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat who was once a Somalian Muslim refugee. Rep. Omar now represents the fifth Congressional district of Minnesota. This display upset several Democratic delegates who witnessed it while going their way to House Chamber for the floor session to be held in the Friday morning. Among them was Michael Angelucci, an elected Democrat from Marion.

Members of the Democratic Party were livid, particularly Mike Pushkin, a Democratic delegate from Kanawha. He said he finds such matters of blatant bigotry distasteful. He also added all of these could only be possible if sanctioned by any political party. The Democrat then said he feels proud to live in a nation where someone could come to the country as a refugee and end up as a member of Congress. Omar was a Somalian refugee. There was an exchange between Angelucci and the House Sergeant at Arms Ann Lieberman. The latter reportedly said all Muslims are terrorists. This was not the only dispute reported in the building. Mike Caputo, the House Minority Whip, was so angered by the display blocking the entrance to the House Chamber during the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer that he injured a doorkeeper after pushing his way past him.

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