Ilhan Omar poster, superimposed next to a picture.
An image of Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., superimposed next to a picture of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center sowed tumult in the West Virginia House of Delegates Friday, leading to a resignation and an injury.
The poster seemed to be an attempt to tie the Minnesota Democrat to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The poster was exhibited in the rotunda of West Virginia’s Capitol Building during “ WV GOP Day.”
Along with the Republican Party of West Virginia, a number of organizations had set up displays Friday. One of those displays had a picture of the congresswoman, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia as a child,, below a plane hitting the Twin Towers with the words, “’Never forget’ – you said..” over the image of the burning buildings and the words, “I am the proof you have forgotten,” over the image of Omar.
West Virginia Public Radio reported Democratic Del. Mike Pushkin, who is Jewish, stood to condemn the poster at the beginning of the floor session, comparing it to the propaganda that might have been seen prior to or in the early days of Nazi rule.
“Maybe it’s a little bit personal for me because, you know, I’m also a member of a religious minority who you know in the early ’30s in Germany, you might see a similar poster about a different religion — and that’s one of the many reasons why that bothers me,” Pushkin said.
Pushkin also tweeted out a photo of the poster, writing: “This poster is in your Capitol on a booth sponsored by [the Republican Party of West Virginia] ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’”
The poster caused controversy and commotion in the Capitol all day. It created a heated debate in the hallway that spilled into the House chamber. Sergeant at Arms Anne Lieberman submitted a letter of resignation after she was accused of using an anti-Muslim slur, according to a report from WSAZ.
“The sergeant of arms of this body had the nerve to say to us ‘all Muslims are terrorists.’ That’s beyond shameful and that’s beyond freedom of speech,” said Del. Michael Angelucci, a Democrat.
The situation became physical when Del. Mike Caputo, a Democrat, kicked open the entrance to the chamber. A doorkeeper who was holding the door shut during the daily prayer and pledge of allegiance was reportedly injured.
During floor speeches, some Republicans used their time to discuss the importance of the First Amendment. Del. Dianna Graves, a Republican, said even though she might disagree with the content, freedom of speech is something that must always be preserved.
“My issue with what I saw outside has to do with another truly American foundational issue and that’s freedom of speech. So, while I may not agree with everything that is out there, I do agree that freedom of speech is something that we have to protect, even if we don’t agree with it. Maybe especially when we don’t agree with it,” Graves told the House.
Omar herself responded to the controversy out of West Virginia on Twitter Friday, writing: “No wonder why I am on the ‘Hitlist’ of a domestic terrorist and ‘Assassinate Ilhan Omar’ is written on my local gas stations.”
Speaker of the House of Delegates Roger Hanshaw, a Republican, condemned the events that unfolded Friday.
“As we began today’s floor session, we had a series of incidents occur in and outside of our Chamber that absolutely do not reflect the character and civility the people of this state demand of their public servants,” Hanshaw said in a statement. “… We can do better.”