A pair of state senators say the actions of Sen. Dale Zorn last week are cause for change in the Senate and on the grounds of the state Capitol.
Sen. Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit, said Wednesday she was introducing legislation to ban the Confederate symbol on Capitol grounds. The proposal comes days after Zorn, R-Ida, wore a face mask on the Senate floor that resembled the Confederate flag, and two weeks after the flag was flown during a protest of the state’s stay-at-home order.
During a Wednesday floor speech, Santana said the flag is often misrepresented and said its presence at the Capitol minimizes the contributions of the 15,000 Michiganders who died during the Civil War.
“The Confederate battle flag is viewed by many — regardless of gender, ethnicity, or political affiliation — as a symbol of hate and racism,” Santana said in a statement following the Senate meeting. “It represents a tragic time in American history that led millions of Americans to fight and die against the oppression of slavery. Some claim it is a symbol of southern pride, however, Michigan’s role as a stalwart member of the Union during the Civil War should preclude those in Michigan claiming southern pride.”
Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, said the Senate should censure Zorn for his conduct.
“We cannot make progress or change by ignoring issues of race, or by tolerating examples of hatred, whether overt or covert, by microaggression or by accident,” Geiss said on the Senate floor. “I rise today to urge the Michigan State Senate to formally censure the gentleman from the 17th Senate District for his knowing and willing adornment of a Confederate flag pattern on a face mask to the meeting of this body.”
Zorn initially denied wearing a mask depicting the flag, but eventually apologized for it, saying he did not intend to offend anyone. However, he also told WLNS that he thought it might get second looks after his wife gave it to him.
“I told my wife it probably will raise some eyebrows, but it was not a Confederate flag,” Zorn told WLNS. “… Even if it was a Confederate flag, you know, we should be talking about teaching our national history in schools and that’s part of our national history and it’s something we can’t just throw away because it is part of our history.”
Geiss also said the Senate should amend its rules to “prohibit the adornment, display or promotion of symbols, attire, logo or insignia of the Confederacy and or white supremacy in any legislative chamber by its members.” She went on to say that she was aware of Zorn’s apology, but that it was not enough.
“Now while we acknowledge that the gentleman from the 17th District issued apologies days after being confronted on this issue, that apology was hollow and was insufficient to reflect the consequences and gravity of the actions,” Geiss said.
Senate rules provide for the censure of a member “determined to have violated the provisions of the rules regulating ethics and conduct.” Geiss did not point to a specific rule Zorn violated, but said the body’s rules needed to be updated so similar actions do not occur again.
In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus. Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible. Carry hand sanitizer with you, and use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and when you go into places like stores.
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