Security escorted Senator Janet Nguyen out last week, when she would not halt a speech to acknowledge procedural objections from Democrats. Nguyen is a refugee from Vietnam and was protesting an earlier commemoration of deceased senator and anti-war activist Tom Hayden.
Democrats argued Nguyen violated Senate rules by speaking about Hayden during session two days after he had been honored and using the wrong procedural motion (called an "adjourn in memory"). Republicans say the procedure was proper.
During Tuesday's session, Democratic Senate leader Kevin de León addressed the incident and said again the rules committee, which he chairs, will examine it.
“Every senator has the right to speak for their constituents and to be heard by the people of California, regardless of their historical perspective or political ideology,” de León says. "At the same time, to maintain order so every senator can be heard, we must also observe process and strive for decorum, not dismiss it."
De León then invited Nguyen to speak. Republican Senator Patricia Bates rose instead.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to call on the good senator from Garden Grove and South Orange County,” Bates said. “She has not had a wink of sleep all weekend. She is very, very distressed and distraught.”
Several Republican lawmakers rose in succession to call for a public hearing about the incident. Nguyen then spoke to join that call.
“Thursday’s events were shocking and distressing,” Nguyen says. “But what happened today on the floor reaffirmed my faith in America’s deep belief in the democratic process and freedom of speech.”
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