(DETROIT) — A group of Michigan lawmakers and activists will hold a rally in support of Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, on Monday as the veteran congressman faces multiple sexual harassment allegations.
The coalition will consist of dozens of city leaders, ministers and activists — most based in Conyers’ 13th District — who said they plan to stand with Conyers amid growing calls on Capitol Hill for him to resign.
Michigan Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, one of the event’s organizers, defended Conyers in a Facebook post Sunday. She argued that he should be given “due process” before choosing to resign.
“We know the balance of the work and contributions that Rep John Conyers has made. He’s certainly someone who has championed civil rights and he deserves due process,” Gay-Dagnogo wrote. “We always see a difference when the leader is a person of color. There’s a rush to judgment.”
“It tells us that African Americans are disposable and that’s why people are not engaged in the political process. We’re just used to help carry the vote and we’re not going to accept that anymore,” she added.
At least 12 House Democrats have called on Conyers to step down as Congress investigates sexual misconduct claims against him. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, has said he should resign, calling the allegations against him “serious, disappointing, and very credible.”
Conyers was the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee before stepping aside last week.
Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus have reportedly encouraged him to resign as well, sources told ABC News.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the allegations against 88-year-old Conyers “serious” and “disturbing” if true. Conyers, first elected to the House in 1964, is a founding member of the CBC.
The House Ethics Committee announced this month that it was looking into claims of sexual harassment and age discrimination involving Conyers’ staff. Conyers, who has denied those allegations, said he will fully cooperate with the investigation.
His decision came after BuzzFeed News reported last month that Conyers’ office paid a female aide over $27,000 to quietly settle a wrongful dismissal complaint.
Last week, Deanna Maher, who served as Conyers’ deputy chief of staff from 1997 to 2005, accused him of making unwanted sexual advances toward her in the 1990s.
Maher, 77, said he touched her inappropriately on at least three occasions, including once in 1999 when he allegedly placed his hands underneath her dress.
Separately, Melanie Sloan, a lawyer who worked with Conyers on the Judiciary Committee, accused him of being “increasingly abusive” to her, behavior she said wasn’t “sexual harassment” but “sexual discrimination.”
Another accuser, Marion Brown, alleged that Conyers propositioned her for sex multiple times over more than a decade, according to The Associated Press. Brown settled a complaint in 2015 with Conyers over the allegations, according to her attorney, the AP reported.
Conyers has acknowledged that his office settled a harassment complaint involving a former staffer but denies the allegations against him.
His attorney, Arnold Reed, called Maher’s allegations uncorroborated and said his client denies any wrongdoing. Conyers is still in the hospital recuperating from a stress-related illness and is expected to decide his next steps in coming days, his lawyer said.
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