Thoughts about Senate Leadership’s attack on democracy with the denial of Sen. Brewster’s seat

The following are remarks I had prepared to give during the House session on Jan. 12, 2021. But I was denied the opportunity to speak during session, and so I am sharing these remarks here.

I am honored to be able to speak on the house floor for the first time as the elected representative from the 188th district. It is incredibly humbling to be with all of you here in this historic place, and I can’t help but feel the awesome responsibility of a history of legislators who have come here year after year to participate in our democracy.

Today I am speaking to you all, because I believe our democracy is in crisis, and it is up to us, the elected leaders of our commonwealth, to speak truth about the threats we face and to make clear where we stand. Do we stand on the side of a free democracy where all people are equal, or do we stand on the side of authoritarianism and tyranny?

One day after we all took an oath to uphold the constitution, thousands of supporters of the president along with fascists and confederate supporters stormed the capitol with intent to harm and possibly kill elected representatives. January 6th, 2021 will forever be remembered as the day that supporters of President Trump attempted an insurrection against the United States of America. Videos and testimony by the rioters themselves are widely available and we all saw a mob demanding the lynching of the vice president of the United States.  As a young Black man who has marched, rallied, and protested for my rights and values, I was sick to my stomach by the complete hypocrisy in response to these insurrectionists. If it were me at the Capitol, I probably wouldn’t be standing here in front of you a week later. I doubt I would’ve even had the chance to peacefully gather.

Last Tuesday, I stood here with one hand raised and one hand on the constitution as I pledged an oath to this commonwealth and to this country. However, on Tuesday in our State Senate the Republican leadership broke that oath as they refused to seat a duly elected senator that was elected by the people of his district. Senator Jim Brewster’s election was certified by our Secretary of State. The State Supreme Court, the highest judicial branch of our Commonwealth, upheld this decision. While Senate is needlessly delaying a duly elected Senator, the thousands of constituents of the 45th district are without representation. All of us who care about the stability and the future of our Commonwealth should understand the decision not to sit an elected senator is an attack on our democracy and on our country.

I bring both of these moments to the floor today, because the spectacle in the PA Senate is directly connected to the violent insurrection against our government. It is the very same lies that many of my colleagues continue to tell about the results of the election that fueled the fire that has led us to the point where the FBI is reporting there will be armed marches on every state capitol before January 20th.

I am here today because I took an oath to defend democracy. This crisis must end. The Pennsylvania State Senate must immediately seat Senator Brewster. We must condemn anyone who would threaten armed insurrection at our capitol as is currently being planned. We must demand investigations into the lawmakers who encouraged and even participated in insurrection.  I do believe we will weather this moment, for America has survived countless times of racial turmoil and oppression. But history will tell the story of who among us defended multi-racial democracy and who among us aided and abetted a violent anti-democratic attack of our Nation.