Supporters to rally for Conyers, call for ‘due process’

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Supporters, constituents and politicians are planning a rally Monday morning at a Detroit church in a show of support for beleaguered longtime Democratic Rep. John Conyers Jr.

The event is open to the public.

“A myriad of people who understand a body of work that the congressman has done not only for the 13th District of Michigan but also for the nation,” said State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo. “He’s been a champion of justice, democracy and freedom.”

Conyers “should be entitled to due process” said Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, on Sunday. “Our country is founded on those principles of being innocent until proven guilty,” said Gay-Dagnogo.

She said local political, civic, religious and community leaders are “very displeased with that not only out of Washington but the Michigan delegation ... his colleagues would rush to judgment and call for his resignation without even considering the people of his district ... and so we find that to be very disrespectful ... disheartening.”

Gay-Dagnogo said they “see a double-standard” in not calling for the resignation of Al Franken or President Donald Trump.

Gay-Dagnogo will join Pastor Charles G. Adams; Detroit NAACP president, the Rev. Wendell Anthony; Rev. Charles Williams of National Action Network; and leaders of the 13th Congressional District at the rally planned for 11 a.m. Monday at Adams’ church, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, 18700 James Couzens in Detroit.

Conyers attorney Arnold Reed said Conyers, who was hospitalized last week for “stress”-related” symptoms is doing better.

Reed said he’s pleased that Gay-Dagnogo and other supporters are standing up for the congressman.

“It is a testament to the work the congressman has done for people from all walks of life for more than 50 years,” said Reed. “I am extremely ecstatic that there are those who are courageous to fight for due process and who refuse to cower and run away in the night in the face of false allegations.”

A decision on whether Conyers will continue as a member of Congress or step aside is expected to be made in the coming days, Reed told reporters Friday outside Conyers’ northwest side Detroit home.

There has been a growing chorus of voices calling for Conyers’ resignation since allegations of sexual harassment were leveled against Conyers in the past couple of years. Last week, one of Conyers’ accusers appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” made allegations that Conyers made sexual advances toward her.

Conyers has said he settled a 2014 complaint by Brown for $27,000 from Conyers’ tax-funded office account. Reed said the settlement was made in order to avoid lengthy litigation by Brown and was viewed as severance, which was taxed.

Reed said Friday Conyers has denied the allegations. At the news conference outside Conyers’ home, Reed produced photos of Conyers’ accuser Marion Brown in a photo with the congressman at the 2011 Barrister’s Black, a yearly event for African-American attorney.

Four members of the Michigan delegation — Democratic Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint Township, Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, Sandy Levin of Royal Oak and Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland — and several other lawmakers have also urged Conyers to resign.

“Zero tolerance means consequences for everyone,” Pelosi said in her announcement. “No matter how great, the legacy is no license to harass or discriminate. In fact, it makes it even more disappointing.”

Responding to a reporter’s question whether there was a racial component to some calls on Congress for Conyers to step down, Reed told reporters to “ask Pelosi and others” on Capitol Hill while Conyers is being asked to leave his congressional seat when others on the Hill, such as Franken and a Texas Republican lawmaker who allegedly settled sexual harassment complaint with $80,000 in taxpayer funds isn’t being asked to step down.

“At the end of the day, Nancy Pelosi is going to have to explain, what is the discernible difference between Al Franken and John Conyers?” Reed said Friday.

A Pelosi spokesman has not responded to a request by The News for comment on Reed’s criticism.

In Conyers’ case, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in the House, said his friend of 50 years and fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus should step down, calling the complaints against Conyers “credible.”

Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat, and other black lawmakers in Congress also are suggesting a different standard is being applied to Conyers.

“We’ve not been asked about it much, but Blake Farenthold on the Republican side ... settled a sex harassment suit — and Al Franken, one of our Democratic colleagues on the Senate side ... admitted to past actions of unwanted touching or groping,” Black Caucus Chairman Richmond said after the group’s weekly lunch Thursday on Capitol Hill.

(313) 222-2027

Detroit News Staff Writer Melissa Burke contributed to this report.

Rally for Conyers

Hartford Memorial Baptist Pastor Charles G. Adams will host the rally, which includes Detroit NAACP president, Rev. Wendell Anthony; Rev. Charles Williams of National Action Network; and leaders of the 13th Congressional District in calling for due process for U.S. Rep. John Conyers.

Where: Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, 18700 James Couzens in Detroit

When: 11 a.m.