Parkland, Fla., shooting survivor turned gun rights activist Emma Gonzalez protested Wednesday at the Iowa office of U.S. Rep. Steve King. She’s in the Hawkeye State as part of a summer #RoadToChange bus tour for March tor Our Lives, but this stop likely holds personal meaning, considering a public flap with the right-wing lawmaker.
In March, barely a month after a shooter murdered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, including a close friend of Gonzalez’s, King attacked Gonzalez in particular on social media for wearing a jacket emblazoned with the Cuban flag. King insinuated that Gonzalez had forgotten her heritage: “This is how you look when you claim Cuban heritage yet don’t speak Spanish and ignore the fact that your ancestors fled the island when the dictatorship turned Cuba into a prison camp, after removing all weapons from its citizens; hence their right to self defense,” the Republican congressman wrote in a Facebook post that included a picture of the teen activist.
The picture came from Gonzalez’s now-famous speech at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., in which the shooting survivor stood silent for nearly seven minutes, the length of time of the shooting. “It was just a very simple way in my speechwriting abilities of getting people to understand what it was like just being a person waiting,” Gonzalez later told The Advocate. “Not even being in the building, just waiting is too much and not something anybody should have to deal with.” The moment helped make her a star of the gun control movement — and a target of the far right.
King’s racially tinged attack on a teenage girl drew wide criticism and his Facebook post came down. He denied that the post had been an attempt to bully Gonzalez, reported Iowa’s Sioux City Journal.
Of course, Gonzalez and other Parkland activists have plenty of other reasons to dislike the politician, who has received more than $19,000 in donations from the National Rifle Association over his 14-year political career, according to a Politico analysis. King is virulently and unapologetically homophobic, no plus to the bisexual Gonzalez, and also has a tendency to promote neo-Nazis and has taken to cable news airwaves with white supremacist arguments in the past.
Gonzalez Wednesday promoted a 2 p.m. protest and candlelight vigil outside King’s Sioux City office, with the simple promise to “see you there.” She made no mention of King’s past rhetorical assault on her garb and heritage.
But fellow Parkland activist Cameron Kasky, also in town with #RoadToChange, made clear reference to the kerfuffle in his own social media post after activists were told they could not bring their protest inside a federal building.
All I wanted was to ask Steve King’s office some questions about him saying that $11,000 isn’t a bribe and ask why he said Emma’s Cuban heritage implies she’s a communist.
They wouldn’t allow cellphones or recording devices in the building and I was escorted out for asking.
— Cameron Kasky (@cameron_kasky) June 20, 2018
March for Our Lives announced that a town hall meeting will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. in Marion, Iowa, to speak out against gun violence across America. Attendees can RSVP here.