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‘Expel me!’ Nebraska senator challenges lawmakers

By   /   March 30, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. — A defiant state Sen. Ernie Chambers says he’s ready for his colleagues to punish him for speaking his mind when he compared police to ISIS terrorists.

“I have not taken it back, I have not apologized for it,” Chambers said. “I will not take it back, I will not apologize for it.”

The north Omaha lawmaker spent two hours Monday morning lambasting fellow lawmakers on the floor of the Legislature, calling them petty and thin-skinned, threatening to gum up the legislative session and daring them to censure him for comparing cops to ISIS terrorists during a March 20 hearing.

Courtesy of the Nebraska Unicameral Information Office

AND IT CONTINUES: State Sen. Ernie Chambers told his fellow lawmakers on Monday, “I have not taken it back, I have not apologized for it. I will not take it back, I will not apologize for it.”

“I just wish you’d try to censure me,” Chambers said. “In fact, don’t stop there, expel me!”

The tidal wave was unleashed after Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy, R-Omaha, delivered on his promise to stand up and call on Chambers to apologize every day until he does so. McCoy read an Omaha World-Herald editorial condemning Chambers’ comments, saying he went too far, regardless of context or perspective.

Chambers often goes on anti-white racist rants and calls Christians hypocrites, but his colleagues rarely say anything about it, and the media often ignores it. But after Nebraska Watchdog reported Chambers’ latest inflammatory speech, national headlines followed, and on Thursday a number of lawmakers stood up and called on Chambers to apologize, clarify or, in one case, resign.

And though he refused to apologize, walk it back or clarify his comments, Chambers did sneak in a few defenses during his rants Monday. At one point, he said ISIS terrorists deliver on their promises “to take your head,” but the same cannot be said of police officers, who promise to serve and protect.

He said he has never been involved in violence other than defending himself in school. He said he was drawing an analogy, arguing his comments were taken out of context .

“There’s not a person in my legislative district who thinks I would want to kill a cop,” he said. “The kids in my community are too smart to put that interpretation on those words.”

He also mentioned he footnoted his comments with the phrase: “You know I couldn’t get away with that.”

His full comment, to put it in context, was:

“If I was going to carry a weapon, it wouldn’t be against you, it wouldn’t be against these people who come here that I might have a dispute with. Mine would be for the police. And if I carried a gun, I’d want to shoot him first and then ask questions later, like they say the cop ought to do. But could I get away with it? You know I couldn’t get away with it. They’d better hope I never lose my mind and find out that I’m on my way out of here.”

During a March 20 hearing on a bill that would allow concealed guns in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, Chambers asked the bill sponsor, Sen. Tommy Garrett, for the rationale behind the bill. Garrett cited the increasingly dangerous world, including threats from Islamic terrorist groups ISIS and ISIL.

“My ISIS is the police,” Chambers said, adding police can get away with shooting people if they “think” they’re going to do something — like pull a weapon.

“The police are licensed to kill us — children, old people,” he said.

Lawmakers have talked of censuring, admonishing or expelling Chambers for the rest of the session, which he challenged his colleagues to try, suggesting they should see whether they can use their collective brainpower to examine legislative rules and beat him.

“What I wish you would do is censure me,” he said. “You don’t have the backbone to do it.”

He challenged lawmakers to “have it out” with him, calling their denunciations last week a “shameful display” and “a mob.”

“You shot your wad, and now you’re tired,” he said. “Nobody can make me do anything.”

As for the Sen. Brett Lindstrom’s decision to strip his name from Chambers’ death penalty repeal bill, Chambers said if people mess with his bills, he’ll mess with them — noting every motion is debatable. Chambers often filibusters bills and is quite capable of making life difficult for lawmakers the rest of the session.

Although he says he isn’t a Bible believer, Chambers spent much of the morning recalling Bible stories about Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion, drawing parallels to his solitary crusade, noting that he’s recognized wherever he goes in Nebraska.

But, Chambers said, he’s also “the most hated man in Nebraska.”

He talked about how Jesus united many different people, and then talked about how Gov. Pete Ricketts, Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert have condemned him.

Chambers read Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady’s Friday tweet saying Chambers is more likely to give birth than shoot a police officer, and that he wouldn’t have minded “having him as a partner in the 1970s,” but “it never hurts to say, ‘I’m sorry.’” By contrast, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer called Chambers’ comments “not only reprehensible, but completely without merit.”

State Sen. Bob Krist, R-Omaha, who vowed last week to stop putting up with Chambers’ mockery of his beliefs and accusations that all white people are racist, told Chambers he respects what he went through as a black man, but he needs to move forward, as does the Legislature. He told Chambers he needs to “know when to shut up.”

“Can we get on with the people’s business?” Krist said. “I think you made your point.”

Freshman state Sen. David Schnoor, R- Scribner, who called for Chambers’ resignation by Monday, told Chambers he prayed for him over the weekend, drawing more derision.

After lunch, Chambers quieted down, abandoning his morning practice of debating virtually every motion. It’s not clear whether lawmakers will move to censure or expel him, but they’re getting some pressure to do so, including from Fortenberry, who pushed lawmakers to at least censure Chambers.

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Deena formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.