On Monday, Minnesota state Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) spoke out against a public safety bill, arguing that its increase in penalties for protesters who block major roads would weaken civil rights and could have blocked historic demonstrations throughout history.
Melissa Hortman (D), the minority leader in the state House, was disappointed that more of her colleagues weren’t in the chamber to hear this speech and others that had been delivered by women opposed to the bill. So she moved to make them come back.
“I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate,” she said.
That comment deeply offended some of the white men in the chamber.
“I’m a white male,” state Rep. Bob Dettmer (R) said. “I respect everybody. But I really believe the comments that were made by the minority leader were really not appropriate. Minority leader, would you apologize to the body?”
I'm really tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored. So, I'm not sorry. Minnesota House Minority Leader Rep. Melissa Hortman (D)
Hortman refused to apologize, the Minneapolis City Pages reported.
“I have no intention of apologizing,” she said. “I am so tired of watching Rep. Susan Allen give an amazing speech, Rep. Peggy Flanagan give an amazing speech, watching Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn give an amazing speech, Rep. Rena Moran give the most heartfelt, incredible speech I’ve heard on this House floor, as long as I can remember, watching Rep. Ilhan Omar give an amazing speech ... and looking around, to see, where are my colleagues?”
“And I went in the retiring room, and I saw where a bunch of my colleagues were,” she added. “And I’m really tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored. So, I’m not sorry.”
Watch the exchange above, via The Uptake.
State Rep. Greg Davids (R) told the Post-Bulletin, a publication in southeastern Minnesota, that he was “greatly offended” by Hortman’s comment and wants her to resign, arguing that she “created a very hostile working environment.”
Omar, elected in November, is the first Somali-American legislator in the nation. She was born in Somalia and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before immigrating to the United States at the age of 12.
Watch Omar’s speech on the public safety budget legislation:
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