Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D-Pine Bluff) now-viral speech last week against “stand your ground” legislation prompted followup remarks in the Senate today. She was not apologetic. Other senators were conciliatory, to varying degrees.
This post is updated because I originally caught Sen. Alan Clark’s remarks late in the afternoon, but had missed remarks made at the opening of the day’s session.
Flowers, after introducing the day’s pastor for an invocation, acknowledged at the beginning of the day’s session about 1:30 p.m. that social media had “blown up” over her remarks, a “good thing,” she said. She encouraged the Senate to “understand” where her passion comes from. She said she learned from the response that a lot of people are suffering because of violence, and not just those of one race. She said she’d fielded calls from people in tears, with broken hearts, from all over the country. They thanked her, she said.
“I don’t apologize for my expression, my passion
She was applauded.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren followed Flowers with remarks saying
Said Hendren: “My plea to all of you is to convey your passions and convictions vigorously and respectfully.” Differences should not be about language and decorum but about issues and how they affect the people of Arkansas, he said
He was followed to the well by Sen. Bob Ballinger, sponsor of the gun legislation. He said he wouldn’t ask for censure of Flowers. And he said he loved Flowers and would die for her. But he insisted that what she’d said about exercising stand your ground rights against someone who came to her neighborhood with a gun was unacceptable and would have been judged that way if he’d said it.
In defense of himself, he said,” I’m not some country bumpkin who’s never seen a black person. … We are colleagues. We are friends.” He urged the Senate to move on.
Later in the afternoon, Clark rose to speak on a point of personal privilege. Clark (R-Hot Springs), who was in the Senate Judiciary Committee chair when Flowers spoke last Wednesday, was more directly critical of the media than of Flowers. But he said he’d been in a no-win situation with a friend and hoped others wouldn’t find themselves in a similar situation.
Clark quoted a Washington Post article that characterized him as having tried to stop Flowers from talking and saying Flowers had stood her ground and won. Clark said he’d only tried to encourage Flowers to stop using profanities, not to stop her from talking.
“What I said was you need to stop the profanity,” he said. “Not after the first word, not after the second but after the third.”
Clark said he “loved Flowers like a sister” and called her one of the most caring, honest and intelligent people he knew. He said no one gives people more freedom as a committee chair and he particularly did so for Flowers. “I know she’s emotional and things upset her. And as a friend, I respect that. That’s why I was calm and as quiet as I knew how to be.”
But he said the media hadn’t gotten events right and “didn’t try to get it right” in depicting him as trying to silence Flowers. She said Flowers had asked him today if he was mad at her. He said he was not mad at her, but he was mad.
“I appreciate she loves me. I don’t appreciate those who try to turn things into something it’s not.”
Clark said he could handle the voice mails and e-mails, some with profanity, that had poured on him. But he said no chairman should be put in the place of being called down for allowing
Clark said he’d been called a racist and misogynist, which would have been true only if he’d treated a senator differently based on race or sex. He said senators needed to “be careful” before putting a colleague in the position he was put in. He also said he’d encouraged colleagues not to attack Flowers.
“I can handle it,” he said. “Not everybody has to make a decision like that. This doesn’t need to happen to anybody else.”
Clark received a round of applause.
Here’s our initial coverage of the speech. It quoted Clark as saying Flowers needed to “stop.” He said today it was impossible to hear in the recording as she continued speaking that he was referring to use of profanities (two “hells” and a “damn”). She didn’t stop her vigorous speech at the time.
No I don’t,” Flowers responded. “What the hell you gonna do, shoot me?”
“Senator,” said Clark.
“Senator, shit,” responded Flowers.
Sens. Ballinger and Trent Garner criticized Flowers on social media last week and suggested she’d been threatening. Their comments helped fuel explosive broadcasting of the speech on Twitter, Facebook
You can see the Senate video of Flowers’ remarks about 1:10 P.M. and Clark’s beginning around 3:10 p.m.