Bettendorf representative among several speakers disrupted by ‘vulgar’ and ‘racist’ remarks, images during Zoom call

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Democrats in Iowa are speaking out after being subjected to what they are describing as “vulgar” and “racist” remarks and images during a Zoom call Friday evening.

Virtual events were held Friday in Davenport, Waterloo and Des Moines as part of the “People’s Condition of the State,” just days before the start of the state’s 2022 legislative session.

“At several moments, the speakers were interrupted by vulgar and racist remarks and images from a handful of individuals who attempted to hijack the event,” a news release says. “But that did not deter them from standing up for what Iowans need to take care of our communities and standing together in opposition to the corporate greed being prioritized by Gov. Reynolds, and the Republican-led legislature.”

Iowa State Rep. Phyllis Thede (D-Bettendorf) was among several people in attendance for the call, which featured Reps. Ross Wilburn (D-Ames) and Ras Smith (D-Waterloo), as well as other activists and leaders.

Rep. Thede released this statement following Friday’s event:

“What happened tonight was absolutely disgusting, unacceptable and far too common. The shift to online platforms for work and school has opened the door for a new kind of harassment. But the attacks are, unfortunately, all too familiar, and they will be met with our resolve. We will not let his hatred keep us from standing up and making our voices heard.”

Matt Sinovic, Executive Director of Progress Iowa, expressed his disgust after Friday night’s attacks:

“The racist attacks made during tonight’s event were repulsive and reprehensible. The disgusting language and images they used, and the disgusting imagery they used, were intended to disrupt our work. But we will stand shoulder to shoulder, condemn their hatred and work together to ensure our voices are heard.”

Charlie Wishman — president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO — says he condemns the online harassment he witnessed during Friday’s call:

“There is no place for the racist harassment and violent, racist images that took place tonight in our democracy, or in our state of Iowa. I can confidently speak for the labor movement of this state in condemning these sickening attacks. It is no coincidence that these attacks are made now, just a few days before the legislative session. There is no difference in hate speech made online, in person or at any time. Hate is hate. An injury to one is an injury to all. We stand in solidarity as a movement against this hate and bigotry.”

Wilburn, who is also the Iowa Democratic Party Chair, released this statement on Saturday:

“What happened last night was an appalling attempt to intimidate and silence Black voices in Iowa. Unfortunately, these despicable experiences of harassment are far too common for Black Iowans. That’s why it’s crucial all Iowans speak up and hold those accountable for bigoted actions and statements. I’m glad to hear this incident was reported to law enforcement, and I hope that justice will be served. No matter what we look like, or how we got here, we’re all Iowans at the end of the day and should treat each other with dignity and respect.”

Al Womble — political director of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, Iowa Democrats Press Black Caucus Chair and host of the event — also spoke out on Saturday:

“We will not be silenced. What took place tonight was a scare tactic of cowards ands mental terrorists who want to prevent us from being involved in our democracy. There’s no greater sign that our votes are more important than ever. We’re at a pivotal moment in our state, and we cannot afford to ignore the real threats of harassment and violence Black Iowans face. I call on my fellow political leaders to stand alongside us and help us fight back against these racist actions that seek to suppress our democratic voice.”

Progress Iowa says video from Friday’s Zoom event, as well as information about the attendees, have been given to the West Des Moines Police Department for further investigation.

“People’s Condition of the State” events will continue throughout the weekend and Monday across the state of Iowa.

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