Black lawmakers in Missouri are accusing Republicans of racism after House Speaker Dean Plocher — who is white — silenced African American state Representative Kevin Windham during a floor debate on Thursday. Windham was debating a bill that would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor in regions with high homicide rates. He was interrupted while reading from a Mississippi Today article about the disenfranchisement of Black voters in Jackson.
Rep. Kevin Windham: “’Mississippi’s Legislature is thoroughly controlled by white Republicans, who have redrawn districts’” —
Rep. Bennie Cook: “Order!”
Speaker Dean Plocher: “Gentleman, please state your point of order.”
Rep. Bennie Cook: “The gentleman is talking about Mississippi issues, and we’re talking about House Bill 301 that’s here in Missouri. If he could please stay on topic, I’d appreciate it.”
After Windham continued discussing the Mississippi legislation, the House speaker cut his microphone and ended debate on the bill. The aggressive move prompted outrage among Black lawmakers, including Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Chair Marlene Terry.
Rep. Marlene Terry: “There is a lot of racism going on here. It’s racist to not allow him to speak. We have to have permission to ask questions on the floor. There’s a list that has to go around. You know, we’re trying to work with them. And it’s not working out.”
This comes after Missouri Republicans recently approved measures limiting public education about race; criminalizing drag shows; adopting a stricter dress code for women lawmakers; and blocked a proposed ban on children carrying guns in public without adult supervision.