Chaos broke out at the West Virginia Capitol on Friday after an anti-Muslim poster linking Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar to the 9/11 terror attacks was displayed as part of a celebration of the state’s Republican Party, leading to a resignation and a reported injury.
The poster featured a meme that depicted Omar under a photo of the burning Twin Towers and the words, “‘Never forget’ - you said..I am the proof - you have forgotten.”
It was displayed outside the House of Delegates chamber during “WV GOP Day,” aka “Republicans Take the Rotunda!” according to a Facebook event set up by the party.
According to WV News, the poster was put up by ACT for America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed “an anti-Muslim hate group.”
The organization reportedly denied it was theirs, but did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Several House Democrats gave public remarks condemning the display, WV News reported.
“It’s ugly; it’s hateful; and there’s absolutely no place for it in American politics,” Democratic Del. Mike Pushkin, who tweeted a photo of the poster, said. “Not in the country that I love. Not in the state that I love.”
Republican Del. Dianna Graves called it a “freedom of speech” issue, but did not directly condemn the poster at the time.
“While I may not agree with everything that is out there, I do agree that freedom of speech is something we have to protect, even if we don’t agree with it,” Graves said. “Maybe especially because we don’t believe in it.”
But in an email to BuzzFeed News on Saturday, Graves said she does “not condone hate speech” and has “great respect for every American, regardless of their religion.”
“I believe Muslim Americans are just that — Americans. Period. And anything that spreads hate is personally distasteful to me. Deeply,” she told BuzzFeed News.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, a Republican, called on the delegates to “do better,” but did not directly condemn the poster or its message.
“We are supposed to have disagreement here. We are supposed to engage in high-minded debate. We are suppose to air out things that are sometimes uncomfortable — that’s OK,” Hanshaw said. “That’s what makes our country great.”
At one point, Del. Michael Angelucci, a Democrat, alleged that he’d heard Republican Sergeant-at-Arms Anne Lieberman say that “all Muslims are terrorists.”
“That’s beyond shameful — and that’s not freedom of speech,” Angelucci said. “That’s hate speech and it has no place in this House — the people’s House — and I am furious.”
In an interview with West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Lieberman disputed the claim but declined to comment further.
By Friday afternoon, though, Lieberman had resigned. In a statement shared on Facebook on Sunday, she suggested that Angelucci had “misheard or misunderstood” her. “I know for certain that I said — verbatim — that ‘Not all Muslims are terrorists,’ but that THOSE (9/11) terrorists WERE all Muslim, trying to bring the discussion back to his original complaint,” she wrote.
During the arguments over the poster, one lawmaker even injured a doorkeeper, WSAZ reported. It was not clear who was involved in the scuffle, and police did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News about the nature of the injury.
Graves, the Republican who initially referred to the incident as a “freedom of speech” issue, told BuzzFeed News that “a person was so angry over the display in front of our Chamber yesterday they may have cracked the rib of our doorkeeper trying to get into the room.”
On Saturday, the West Virginia Republican Party released a statement saying it does “not approve, condone, or support hate speech.”
The group said once it learned of the sign, it asked the exhibitor to take it down.
“Our Party supports freedom of speech, but we do not endorse speech that advances intolerant and hateful views,” West Virginia Republican Party officials said in their statement.
On Twitter on Friday evening, Omar blamed the Republican Party for the threats she has received.
“No wonder why I am on the ‘Hitlist’ of a domestic terrorist and ‘Assassinate Ilhan Omar’ is written on my local gas stations,” Omar wrote. “Look no further, the GOP’s anti-Muslim display likening me to a terrorist rocks in state capitols and no one is condemning them!”
Omar became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in November, along with Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
A number of Omar’s fellow freshman Democrats have come out in support of her over the anti-Muslim poster.
Omar has been facing criticism this week due to comments she recently made at a talk at a DC bookstore. Omar said that people who’ve denounced her criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic are acting in bad faith to “end the debate.”
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” she said, Jewish Insider reported.
The remarks got picked up by New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, who said Omar was “invoking the hoary myth of dual loyalty” and “smuggl[ing] in ugly stereotypes” about American Jews.
This post was updated to include a statement from Anne Lieberman.