Black Indiana lawmakers face Republican boos during debate

Tempers flared among Indiana legislators during a debate Thursday when Black lawmakers were shouted down and booed by some Republicans and two House members had to be separated in a hallway.

Posted: Feb 19, 2021 10:01 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tempers flared among Indiana legislators during a debate Thursday when Black lawmakers were shouted down and booed by some Republicans and two House members had to be separated in a hallway.

Democratic Rep. Greg Porter of Indianapolis, who is Black, was speaking in the Indiana House against a bill allowing a rural, mostly white, St. Joseph County township to leave the South Bend Community Schools, which is about 60% Black or Hispanic, when he called the proposal discriminatory.

Several Republican members said loudly “no” and “stop,” after which Porter, who was wearing traditional African clothing in recognition of Black History Month, left the House meeting room.

The debate continued and Democratic Rep. Vernon Smith of Gary, who is also Black, called the bill racist. Smith also faced boos and some Republican members started leaving the room.

A confrontation soon erupted in a hallway between Republican Sean Eberhart of Shelbyville and Democratic Rep. Vanessa Summers of Indianapolis, another Black lawmaker, and they were separated by other legislators.

Summers said she doesn’t remember what was said in the heat of the moment but admitted she “has a mouth” and may have used strong language. She said she was calling out another Republican, though, when Eberhart thought she was talking to him.

“He just went off and got mad and tried to hit me,” Summers told The Indianapolis Star. “I felt in danger for my life.”

Eberhart said he was called a racist and verbally attacked by Summers.

“I was confronted by Vanessa (Summers) and accused of being discriminatory and racist toward people in general,” Eberhart said. “That’s totally not factual. I don’t have a racist bone in my body.”

The Republican-dominated House narrowly approved the school district bill on a 52-43 vote as 14 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the proposal.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston later urged all legislators to show respect for each other and not question the motives of others.

“We’re going to disagree. That’s part of the process,” Huston said. “But we’re going to do it in a respectful way. I’m going to enforce our rules in a more strident manner.”

Summers, a House member since 1991, said relationships between Republicans and Democrats feel different this session, fueled by debates over racism following last year’s deaths of George Floyd and other unarmed Black people at the hands of police.

“Everybody over there is racist and discriminatory,” Summers said of House Republicans. “Those that aren’t and are not standing up for what’s right, they’ve got white privilege and they’re racist, too.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 657037

Reported Deaths: 12450
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion901321624
Lake48105871
Allen35552632
Hamilton31839393
St. Joseph29538510
Elkhart25261412
Vanderburgh21115377
Tippecanoe19765197
Johnson16242352
Porter15838267
Hendricks15723296
Clark11843179
Madison11672314
Vigo11503228
Monroe10248158
Delaware9788178
LaPorte9720194
Howard9017194
Kosciusko8514107
Bartholomew7373147
Warrick7369146
Hancock7362128
Floyd7139164
Wayne6586188
Grant6395157
Morgan6040124
Boone603388
Dubois5868111
Dearborn540266
Henry539492
Marshall5390104
Cass537199
Noble506775
Jackson462063
Shelby458490
Lawrence4154111
Gibson399681
Harrison395160
Clinton392353
DeKalb382078
Montgomery381583
Knox354484
Miami354063
Whitley346235
Huntington338176
Steuben335955
Wabash328775
Putnam325959
Ripley325161
Adams320249
Jasper312943
White295351
Jefferson292770
Daviess284296
Fayette270255
Decatur269388
Greene259978
Posey259731
Wells255374
Scott248446
LaGrange240170
Clay238944
Randolph225076
Spencer215830
Jennings213544
Washington207727
Sullivan202038
Fountain200341
Starke185950
Owen181652
Jay177328
Fulton176437
Carroll175618
Perry172435
Orange170450
Rush163922
Franklin158335
Vermillion158040
Tipton145441
Parke137915
Pike127232
Blackford120027
Pulaski105643
Newton96431
Brown94639
Benton91113
Crawford90113
Martin80114
Switzerland7507
Warren74612
Union66810
Ohio52711
Unassigned0425

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