Ohio House Democrats called on Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) to publicly condemn the threats of violence made against their leader and provide “additional security measures” for lawmakers.
“As Speaker and in recognition of your leadership role in the Ohio House of Representatives, you are granted additional security while in the statehouse,” House Democrats said in a letter to Householder last week.
“As members of the minority caucus, we feel strongly that our own leadership is similarly deserving of heightened security protection, especially given the recent threats and increasing animus in this political environment,” the letter added.
The request for additional security was made after an unidentified caller threatened to kill the father of House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) if she didn’t resign from office.
According to a report from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the caller made it look like he was calling from her father’s phone number. Her father is state Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron).
“The suspect told Emilia he had her father and he would kill him,” said an Akron Police Department report from May 29. “He repeatedly told Emilia to ‘step aside’ referring to her political stance, telling her to resign from office, or he would kill her father. The suspect told Emilia not to contact police.”
In their letter to Householder, Democrats said they have “serious concerns regarding whether the House is properly addressing the safety of its members.”
“As of today, Governor DeWine, Senate President Obhof, Senate Minority Leader Yuko, Attorney General Dave Yost, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose have all issued public statements supporting Leader Sykes and Senator Sykes and condemning the threats made against them; they have even offered their assistance. A similar statement from you as well as an offer of temporary additional security for Leader Sykes would go a long way in addressing our concerns,” the letter continued.
Specifically, House Democrats asked for a “more secured parking spot” and a temporary increase in security personnel for the minority leader.
Sykes has issued a number of forceful statements in recent days regarding the death of George Floyd, who was allegedly murdered by a Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day, and Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposal for combating the spread of the coronavirus in Ohio’s black population.
“If you feel uncomfortable talking about racism, imagine what it feels like to live with it,” Sykes said in one statement. “Black Ohioans are not OK. We need immediate action, not the creation of another task force or study group to confirm what we already know is wrong and broken. The time for studying racism is over. We have reports and recommendations that are created, publicized and then placed on a shelf and forgotten about, but never codified.”
Members of her caucus have also introduced a bill to declare racism a “public health crisis,” The Ohio Star reported.
“When we selected you as the Speaker, you committed to being a leader for all 99 elected representatives,” the letter to Householder concluded. “While our caucuses may sometimes disagree on policy, we should always agree on the fact that we all have a right to express our positions without being threatened with physical violence.”
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