Se­nate pres­i­dent Miller’s statue re­marks cause ire

Col­league seeks vote to cen­sure

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TAMARA WARD tward@somd­

A Prince George’s County state sen­a­tor has in­tro­duced a leg­isla­tive re­quest for a vote to cen­sure the re­marks of Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s).

Ear­lier in the month, Miller noted Supreme Court Jus­tice Roger B. Taney’s ac­com­plish­ments dur­ing a de­bate on whether the con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure’s statue should have been moved from the grounds of the State House in An­napo­lis.

In the Dred Scott v. San­ford Supreme Court de­ci­sion of 1857, Taney au­thored the con­tentious opin­ion that no per­son of African an­ces­try was en­ti­tled to U.S. cit­i­zen­ship.

“The pres­i­dent of the Se­nate in re­al­ity or per­cep­tion speaks for the en­tire Se­nate and, when he uses his Se­nate sta­tion­ary, puts re­marks that on

there de­fend­ing a per­son who [is] re­pug­nant in the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity — Roger Taney was very much a per­son who said black lives do not mat­ter,” stressed Sen. An­thony Muse (D-Prince George’s) in an in­ter­view with South­ern Mary­land News­pa­pers, re­fer­ring to a let­ter au­thored by Miller on Aug. 17.

In his state­ment, Miller re­ferred to Taney’s Dred Scott opin­ion as “in­flam­ma­tory” and “deroga­tory” and said it cre­ated a “last­ing wound in the coun­try” as well as in­cited the Civil War, but con­versely, Miller cham­pi­oned keep­ing

the chief jus­tice’s statue, not­ing that Taney once freed his slaves, be­came in­volved in a group of re­form­ers who pro­tected free blacks from kid­nap­ping, tried to al­le­vi­ate the harsh­ness of slav­ery and rep­re­sented abo­li­tion­ists in court.

Muse said the move to cen­sure is not about the Se­nate pres­i­dent’s po­si­tion on the statue or whether it be­longs at the State House or in a mu­seum, but more so that it was “very in­sen­si­tive and very hurt­ful” for Miller to de­fend Taney in the af­ter­math of re­cent vi­o­lence brought about by hate groups in Char­lottesville, Va., and na­tion­wide ten­sion on race and eth­nic­ity.

“It was de­fend­ing a char­ac­ter who brought

so much hurt through his de­ci­sion and his ba­sic feel­ings to­wards African-Amer­i­cans,” Muse ex­plained. “With the cli­mate be­ing what it is, this was not the time or the place.”

“He said we were not hu­man be­ings. We were prop­erty,” said Muse, re­fer­ring to Taney and not­ing that the de­ci­sion al­lowed Klu Klux Klan mem­bers to kill blacks be­cause they had no stand­ing in courts. Ul­ti­mately, blacks were killed by the thou­sands. Muse also said Taney’s opin­ion led to the Civil War.

“No per­son of con­science can do any­thing other than con­demn these acts and fight like hell to op­pose the KKK and white supremacy move­ment. Just as I con­demn those events

in no un­cer­tain terms, I have also con­demned the state­ments of Chief Jus­tice Taney in the wrong­headed Dred Scott hold­ing, and the de­ci­sion it­self which led to a Civil War,” shared Miller in a writ­ten state­ment to South­ern Mary­land News­pa­pers, on the pos­si­ble cen­sure.

Muse also in­ferred Miller’s re­marks hurt the Demo­cratic Party.

“How do you agree with Pres­i­dent Trump and say Democrats are dif­fer­ent in their at­ti­tudes to­wards African-Amer­i­cans?” ques­tioned Muse.

“As a stu­dent of his­tory, I in­tended to re­spect­fully state my pref­er­ence for ed­u­ca­tion about our flawed his­tory and the greater his­tor­i­cal con­text of Jus­tice Taney,” said Miller, re­fer­ring to keep­ing the statue on the grounds, co-lo­cated near a statue of Supreme Court Jus­tice Thur­good Mar­shall, a black man from Bal­ti­more.

“I do re­gret that shar­ing my his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive has dis­tracted from the larger is­sues we must face to­gether as a na­tion and from my role to bring unity and fight for a bet­ter Mary-

land,” Miller added.

In the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly, the process for cen­sure is that the Se­nate in­tro­duces and votes on a sim­ple res­o­lu­tion to of­fi­cially cen­sure the law­maker in ques­tion. Since this is a mat­ter in­ter­nal to the Se­nate, it will not be passed along to the House.

There are no of­fi­cial re­stric­tions placed on a mem­ber who is cen­sured, but a cen­sure is not fa­vor­able for a mem­ber’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

If Miller were to be cen­sured, it would be the first time a mem­ber was cen­sured for per­sonal re­marks. Typ­i­cally, dis­or­derly, dis­re­spect­ful or un­eth­i­cal be­hav­ior are the grounds for cen­sure.

In 2012, Sen. Ulysses Cur­rie (D-Prince George’s) was cen­sured for eth­i­cal vi­o­la­tions, for fail­ure to dis­close out­side work and us­ing his po­si­tion for profit. Four­teen years prior, for­mer sen­a­tor from Bal­ti­more Larry Young (D) was cen­sured and ul­ti­mately ex­pelled from the Se­nate in 1998 on ethics charges to also in­clude us­ing his po­si­tion for profit. Both Cur­rie and Young were ac­quit­ted of crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing.

Muse said this cen­sure is not a puni­tive ac­tion, but an op­por­tu­nity for each sen­a­tor to have their opin­ion noted.

“We want to take a vote in the Se­nate on the re­marks of the pres­i­dent of the Se­nate to send a mes­sage that the Se­nate does not agree with his re­marks; that is all this res­o­lu­tion does,” said Muse, ex­plain­ing that the of­fi­cial rep­ri­mand does not in­volve his be­hav­ior or charges. “It al­lows each in­di­vid­ual sen­a­tor to say ‘I agree or I dis­agree’ with those state­ments that are now a part of his­tory on the pres­i­dent of the Se­nate’s let­ter­head.”

Leg­isla­tive re­quests for the next ses­sion are be­ing worked on now and will not be made public on the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly leg­isla­tive site un­til De­cem­ber. Once a bill, the res­o­lu­tion will move for­ward to a com­mit­tee for hear­ings dur­ing the 2018 leg­isla­tive ses­sion be­fore a pos­si­ble vote.

Muse said the Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus has called an emer­gency meet­ing for two weeks from now to take an of­fi­cial po­si­tion on Miller’s state­ments.


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