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Spokane County Republican chair calls on Democrats to denounce booing of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

January 17, 2017 GMT

The Spokane County Republican Party chair is calling on her Democratic counterpart to denounce the booing and chanting that drowned out part of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ speech at Spokane’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Rally.

McMorris Rodgers’ speech at the rally Monday morning was periodically interrupted by people yelling and challenging her remarks. Toward the end of her remarks, a number of people in the crowd began chanting “save our health care,” referring to the congresswoman’s votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

As she left the stage, many in the audience booed, while other applauded.

Republican Party Chair Stephanie Cates issued a statement Tuesday calling for Andrew Biviano, the newly-elected chair of the county Democratic Party, to denounce the “bullying and hateful discourse.”

“Regardless of whether the attendees had a legitimate complaint or not, a Unity Rally honoring the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not the time nor the place to protest and bully a speaker,” Cates wrote. “It was incredibly rude to those who wished to hear what our Congresswoman had to say, and it set a poor example for the children in the audience.”

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Cates asked Biviano to “help usher in a new era of civil discourse between our two political parties. Republicans and Democrats may have differing ideologies and worldviews, but we can do better at showing respect for each other.”

The booing was denounced immediately after the speech by Freda Gandy, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Outreach Center. She also asked people to think of the example they were setting for children.

“What divides us will destroy us,” she said.

NAACP President Phil Tyler organized a roundtable discussion with McMorris Rodgers Monday to discuss tackling poverty, racism and divisiveness in Spokane. About 16 community members attended after the Congresswoman reached out to Tyler to express concern about racist graffiti spray-painted on the MLK Center in November.

Following the rally Monday, he said the booing reflected poorly on Spokane.

“We couldn’t set aside partisanship for one day,” he said.

”I felt bad for her,” said the Rev. Happy Watkins, who read King’s iconic “I Have a Dream Speech” at the rally, in an interview Tuesday. “She didn’t deserve that, but these are the times.”

”That’s not Spokane,” Watkins said of the booing.

Biviano did not immediately return a call seeking comment.