*A floor debate got heated along both racial and party lines at the Indiana Statehouse Thursday, with Republicans reportedly shouting down a group of Black lawmakers.
According to USA TODAY, the dispute was over House Bill 1367. Democratic Rep. Greg Porter, a member of the Black caucus, walked off the floor overcome with emotion after several Republican lawmakers shouted down his warning of discrimination in the bill, which would allow students in a St. Joseph County township to leave racially diverse South Bend Community Schools to join a nearby school district that’s smaller, more rural and made up primarily of white students, according to USA Today.
The bill’s author, GOP Rep. Jake Teshka, insists that his bill is strictly about transportation issues and not discriminatory.
After Porter walked off, Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, reiterated concerns about racial discrimination and talked about his own experiences as a Black man, including being pulled over for “driving while Black” and being denied access to certain places. He was met with “boos” from several other GOP lawmakers.
Republican lawmaker Jim Lucas was so bothered by Smith’s testimony that he walked out as well. (Sidenote: Over the summer, Lucas was sanctioned by the GOP Speaker of the House for sharing a racist meme.)
The confrontation then moved from the floor into the hallway … and got physical. Allegedly.
Democratic Rep. Vanessa Summers of Indianapolis said that Republican Rep. Sean Eberhart of Shelbyville called her “the b-word” and also “just went off and got mad and tried to hit me.”
“I felt in danger for my life,” she added.
“Everybody over there is racist and discriminatory,” Summers said of House Republicans. “Those that aren’t and are not standing up for what’s right, they’ve got white privilege and they’re racist too.”
Ultimately, the bill passed, 52-43.