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Conyers supporters rally, call for "due process" for congressman

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Due process.

That was the rallying cry of U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ supporters, as they gathered at Detroit’s Hartford Memorial Baptist Church to mount a full-throated defense of the 88-year-old congressman and civil rights icon Monday.

In often-emotional speeches, state lawmakers, prominent clergy and others said Conyers should not have to step down over multiple sexual misconduct allegations until a Congressional ethics investigation into the matter concludes.

And they questioned why top Democrats have pressured Conyers to step down, but not other lawmakers facing similar allegations.

When it comes to the burgeoning social movement to expose sexual harassment, “Good intentions have descended into mob rule,” said Rev. Christian Adams, a Hartford Memorial Baptist pastor. “That is a threat and antithetical to democracy.”

Adams said a “false dichotomy” has emerged – either support victims of sexual harassment, or support giving those accused of it some form of due process.

“We support both,” Adams said. “And we support most of all a process that will protect the constitutional rights of all involved.”

Other speakers didn't hesitate to bring up the topic of race, and question whether Conyers is facing more pressure to resign because he’s African American.

State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, said she’s disappointed in Congressional Democrats, including Michigan Reps. Debbie Dingell, Dan Kildee and Sander Levin, for calling on Conyers to step down without considering larger implications.

“To me, this overturns the larger body of work that [Conyers] has made a contribution to – to democracy, to voting rights, to civil rights. This even goes to sting Dr. [Martin Luther] King when you put this type of blemish on his record,” Gay-Dagnogo said.

“He deserves an opportunity to defend his legacy.”

Gay-Dagnogo also expressed frustration with what she sees as Democrats' taking black voters for granted.

“You want us to all be united when you need our vote, but now when you don’t need our vote or it’s politically inconvenient, now you jump ship,” she said. “That’s not right.”

Gay-Dagnogo asserts there are “some conflicts in some of these allegations” against Conyers, particularly those made by former staffer Marion Brown. Brown’s lawyer confirmed this past weekend that her client has been subpoenaed by the House Ethics Committee.

Conyers has been hospitalized since Thursday for "stress-related" reasons. He’s believed to be stable, though details about his health condition have been sparse.

Conyers’ lawyer Arnold Reed suggested last week the congressman may consider resigning if he can’t continue to “serve effectively.” However, Reed said that decision would be Conyers’ own and not due to any political pressure.

Today Reed tweeted:

I will be wrapping up my discussions with #Congressman Conyers shortly. The last phase of our discussions are focusing on whether he can receive #dueprocess in the current climate of false allegations levied against him. #Decision coming soon.

In a subsequent tweet, Reed said Conyers is scheduled to make an announcement on the Mildred Gaddis radio show tomorrow morning at 10:15.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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