Conyers supporters rally, vent frustration at Pelosi

Supporters of Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan gathered in the sanctuary of a Detroit church Monday morning to urge national leaders like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to grant Conyers full due process under the law.

Conyers is embroiled in controversy after multiple women alleged that the congressman — the longest currently serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives — had sexually harassed them when they worked for him. The entire House Democratic leadership has called for Conyers to step down, but he has denied any wrongdoing.

The congressman was admitted to a hospital late last week for shortness of breath, dizziness and other symptoms, according to his attorney Arnold Reed. Conyers did not attend the rally this morning, which was organized by Michigan state Democratic Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo.

Approximately 40 state and community leaders, including politicians and pastors, stood before an enthusiastic crowd of community members, chanting phrases like “due process” and “no justice, no peace” along with the speakers.

Many of the speakers emphasized that they did not discount the allegations the women had made against Conyers, but wanted him to be treated fairly. Pastor Warren Evans told the crowd that his call for due process and a full investigation “has nothing to do with being pro-John or against women’s rights.”

“This is about doing what’s right,” he said.

The speakers pointed to what they felt is harsher treatment of Conyers than the reaction to sexual harassment allegations against Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, and other lawmakers.

Some speakers cited Conyers’ long history as a civil rights activist. Martha Scott, Wayne County commissioner, spoke passionately about her memories of Conyers before he was a congressman and her memories of the civil rights era in the South.

“It’s people like Congressman Conyers who paved the way for all of us,” she said.

“John Conyers has spent more than 50 years protecting the rights of everybody in this country,” Evans told the crowd.

Pelosi was a frequent target of the remarks, with community leaders pointing to her call for the congressman to resign as unfair because he had not been granted due process.

“Congressman Conyers always respected her,” radio host the Rev. JoAnn Watson told the crowd, referring to the California Democrat. “And he deserves respect from the body he serves.”

The House Ethics Committee announced last month that it was investigating allegations against Conyers following reports that he had settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after allegedly sexually harassing a staffer. Conyers acknowledged the existence of a settlement but denied wrongdoing.

Following that initial report, several other former aides accused him of sexual harassment, all of whom Conyers denied harassing. Conyers did step down from his post as top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee last month, but he has refused to resign.

Gay-Dagnogo wrapped up Monday’s event by telling the crowd that they would take their message beyond Detroit if needed.

“We’re ready to take our action to Washington, DC,” she told the crowd, to applause and cheers.