Supporters of Michigan Rep. John Conyers gathered at a church in Detroit Monday to express their support for the longtime congressman and push back against those calling for his resignation over multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
Church leaders and local Democratic operatives were among the speakers at the rally “to stand for due process” at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church. They urged Conyers not to resign and cited other politicians who have faced recent scandals without resigning, such as Sen. Al Franken, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and even President Donald Trump.
“Why is it that John Conyers is the only individual to be denied due process of law?” said Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP.
“Quite frankly it suppresses the right to vote. It does not elevate the people, it diminishes the people," Anthony said.
Last month, BuzzFeed News revealed Conyers paid out a $27,000 settlement in 2015 to a former employee who claimed Conyers repeatedly sexually harassed her. Two other female staffers said in supporting affidavits that they were also touched inappropriately by Conyers.
Since then, two other women have come forward to allege harassment. Another woman alleged in court documents that Conyers touched her inappropriately on a daily basis when she worked for him. She attempted to launch a lawsuit against Conyers but withdrew it when the court denied her request to seal the case. The House Ethics Committee is currently investigating the allegations.
Several speakers at the rally Monday insisted they were not taking a stance on the allegations themselves, but rather denouncing an unfair rush to judgment. At several points, chants of “due process” rang out in the church.
“You have a right to respond to your accuser and you have the right to have an independent body make a determination,” said Wayne County executive Warren Evans.
“Until that happens they’ve got nothing and this is wrong.”
Almost 20 House members have called on Conyers to resign, which Evans described as “shameful.” In particular, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Michigan's Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee were singled out for their criticism during the rally.
Political consultant Sam Riddle, who previously worked as a chief of staff for the congressman's wife, Monica Conyers, denounced Pelosi and Kildee as “phony white liberals that take our support for granted.”
Pelosi received a wave of criticism for her initial response to the Conyers allegations in a Meet the Press interview last week. She later took a harder line and called on Conyers to resign.
Other speakers on Monday highlighted their personal relationships to Conyers, his work in the civil rights movement, and his progressive record over more than five decades of serving in Congress.
“This man has given his life to serve the people of this country,” said former Detroit city council member Rev. Joann Watson. “We’re not excusing any misbehavior or misconduct but we’re calling for due process.”
Michigan Democratic operative Joe DiSano, who has called on Conyers to resign, cast doubt on the sincerity of those defending the congressman at Monday’s event. “Today’s rally is on the surface about him. In reality, it’s posturing from people who want to replace him,” DiSano told BuzzFeed News.
Lissandra Villa contributed additional reporting to this story.