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Puerto Rican congressman responds to Trump's hateful attacks in emotional takedown

“This is still our House. It’s the people’s House.”

By Matthew Chapman - January 31, 2018
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Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez

Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address was a predictably awful affair. But for one brief moment, the spotlight moved from him to Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.

Near the end of the speech, Gutierrez, a Puerto Rican and a passionate defender of immigrant rights, left the chamber while Trump was talking.

“Whoever translated it for him from Russian did a good job,” Gutierrez said of the speech.

“I was hoping for some sort of apology on Puerto Rico, but I heard nothing,” he continued. Trump’s treatment of the Americans he has essentially abandoned on the island is, Gutierrez said, “a metaphor for how this president sees all Latinos and people of color: he does not see us as equals and he does not see us as fellow human being.”

Trump’s treatment of the island shows he “probably thinks of Puerto Rico as just another shithole country.”

Right-wing media attacked him, claiming he left because Republicans were chanting “USA” — an ugly suggestion that the congressman  implying the congressman

But in fact, he only left due to a scheduling conflict. And it is notable that he even bothered to turn up at all, because several of his colleagues refused to do so.

Later that night, he explained to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow why he dignified Trump with his presence.

“This is still our House. It’s the people’s House,” said Gutierrez. “I didn’t want to abandon my responsibility. I wanted to be there. And I also wanted to be a symbol of resistance in the room.”

His next line was a perfect summary of both why he attended.

“I wanted Donald Trump to know that there are people who think that his racist and hate-filled words and policies and proposals are still being resisted in Congress, and that we’re there and that we’re present and that we’re not going to turn our backs to him.”

He added that Trump’s immigration “compromise” is a sham that would tear apart families, and that his demands for “the wall” have become a coded appeal for militarization and raids against parents who have never committed a crime, and that is a “non-starter” for America.

Many lawmakers had hoped, like Gutierrez, that Trump would finally find it in his heart to take a unifying and bipartisan tone in his address. Instead, insulted DREAMers, prattled on about El Salvadoran street gangs, and took yet another shot at black NFL players who protest police brutality, all the while glossing over white supremacists who are inflicting violence on our communities.

Gutierrez’s decision to show up to Trump’s address was a demonstration of solidarity with the people he represents and their rights and values as a country, in the face of a president who would demolish them. We must follow his lead, and continue to resist.


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