HomeAsian AmericansCalifornia State Senator Removed from Floor for Criticizing Late Supporter of Anti-Vietnam...

California State Senator Removed from Floor for Criticizing Late Supporter of Anti-Vietnam War Movement

Janet Nguyen
California State Rep Janet Nguyen (R-Orange County)

California Sen. Janet Nguyen is being treated as a hero by the GOP after she was removed from the state Senate floor for continuing to criticize the late state Sen. Tom Hayden, reports the  Mercury News. Republican Sen. Nguyen spoke during a portion of the session Thursday that was reserved to memorialize victims of the Vietnam War, when she refused to stop criticizing the late lawmaker who died in October for his leadership in the 1960s anti-Vietnam War movement.

Tom Hayden

LBJ Library photo by Jay Godwin

As Nguyen was giving her speech on Thursday, Majority Leader Bill Monning said she was speaking out of order, when her microphone was shut off. She continued to speak as the presiding Democrat, Sen. Ricardo Lara, repeatedly told her to take her seat, after which he ordered security to remove her. When security began to gently nudge her towards the door, she dodged them and attempted to continue her speech.
“What happened 48 hours ago was as shocking to me as it was for everybody,” Nguyen said  Saturday. “I was doing my duty to represent my constituency. If we can’t allow my constituency, a million of them, to be heard, where can that be protected?” She now represents some regions of Long Beach and Orange County, which includes Little Saigon, home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam. Some war refugees blame the U.S. anti-Vietnam War movement for undermining the efforts of U.S. forces in the war and for contributing to North Vietnam’s victory.

Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American woman elected to the California Legislature, lived in South Vietnam and fled with her family as a child when the North Vietnamese government took over.
According to a written copy of her speech, Nguyen planned to say that Hayden “sided with a communist government that enslaved and/or killed millions of Vietnamese, including members of my own family.” Hayden helped organize protests against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, later becoming a leftist legislator and statesman.
Democrats said Nguyen violated rules with her criticism, claiming she could have made those same comments if she had waited and made a motion later during the session. “She got exactly what she wanted, which wasn’t to speak. She wanted to create a scene for her district,” said Dan Reeves, chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León. De León said the rules were already explained to Nguyen and her staff prior and that he will be conducting an internal review of the situation.

Some Republicans defended her actions. “I very seldom get enraged, and I am deeply enraged at this moment,” said Republican Minority Leader Jean Fuller, as several of Nguyen’s fellow Republicans claimed she was being unfairly silenced.
Nguyen wrote an article for the OC Register defending her right to free speech.
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