Republican lawmakers in the Indiana State House shouted down and booed their black Democratic colleagues during a debate on the House floor about a bill that they believe to be discriminatory.
The bill in dispute, HB1367 would “establish a two year pilot program whereby the John Glenn School Corporation may initiate a process to disannex certain territory from an existing school corporation and annex the territory.”
Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, a member of the black caucus argued that the bill would allow students in a St. Joseph County township to leave the South Bend Community Schools, which are racially diverse, to join a nearby school district that’s smaller, more rural and made up primarily of white students, according to USA Today. He walked off the the House floor, overcome with emotion as Republican lawmakers loudly objected to his warning that the bill was discriminatory.
Democratic Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, also tried to voice his concerns about the bill being discriminatory, likening it to a black person being denied entry to certain places because of the color of his skin and spoke about his experiences with racism as a black man. But he too was met with loud boos from the Republican side.
Rep. Jim Lucas, who was sanctioned by the House over the summer for sharing a racist meme, walked out after he objected to Rep. Smith’s testimony.
The chaos inside spilled into the hallway of the state Capitol as many lawmakers left the House floor.
At one point Reps. Sean Eberhart, and Black caucus member Vanessa Summers, got into a heated confrontation that ended with both lawmakers being dragged in opposite directions.
Eberhart claims Summers said he was “racist toward people in general,” and “that’s totally not factual. I don’t have a racist bone in my body.”
Summers admitted that she may have used some strong language in the heat of the moment but she said she was calling out the Republican lawmaker who led a chorus of boos against her Democratic colleagues. Eberhart thought she was talking about him and he nearly hit her.
“He just went off and got mad and tried to hit me,” she said. “I felt in danger for my life.”
Republicans say the bill could solve some issues around transportation. They do not the believe it is discriminatory. Ultimately the bill passed, 52-43.
[Image: Rep. Vanessa Summers ]