DETROIT, MICH. - The message Monday was urgent and consistent: U.S. Rep. John Conyers deserves due process and not repeated calls for him to resign before an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.is completed.
"We have one commonality today and it is called due process," said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP. "Why is it that John Conyers is the only individual to be denied due process? It is apparent that if we’re going to raise this unholy and unlawful guillotine, calling for the head of John Conyers, then in fairness we must begin with the president of the United States. Mr. Trump currently has 15 women who have accused him of sexual harassment. He has told the world and embarrassed the nation by telling how he treats women."
More than 200 people showed up for the rally to support Conyers in the wake of several allegations of sexual harassment from former staff members, a $27,000 settlement paid to one of those former employees and the misuse of office funds to pay the settlement.
None of the more than a dozen speakers said the accusers should be forgotten, only that Conyers deserves the same rights of due process that other members of Congress who have been accused of sexual harassment are receiving.
"It is my belief that good intentions have turned into mob rule. It is a false dichotomy that you support his right to due process or you support his accusers," said the Rev. Christian Adams, of the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church where the rally was held. "We support the right to protect the constitutional rights of all involved."
An increasing number of members of Congress, including several members of Michigan's delegation, both Republicans and Democrats, have called on Conyers to resign, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who also has called for an investigation into the allegations by the House Ethics Committee. Michigan members who have called for Conyers' resignation are U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Holland, Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn and Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak.
And those people came under harsh criticism from those speaking at the rally.
"The unmitigated gall and audacity to try and take his basic rights away is a sin and a shame," said Wayne County Executive Warren Evans. "For those in the U.S. Congress to call for his resignation is shameful. Until we know what happened, I can’t fathom why a Pelosi or a Kildee would ask for the resignation of a man who has not been given due process."
Evans said it's important to wait for an investigation to play out. "Where the chips fall is where they fall after the investigation. It is way past the time for us to stop assuming people are guilty until they’re proven innocent."
Many people around Conyers have begun to push back against the allegations, calling one of the accusers an "opportunist" who allowed her daughter to also work in Conyers' office.
Conyers remains hospitalized after complaining of dizziness and shortness of breath last week. His attorney Arnold Reed said Friday that Conyers would make a decision in a few days on whether to resign, retire after the end of his term or run for re-election in 2018.
Several at the rally said he definitely shouldn't resign.
"I’m not here to dispute any allegations, but I know he’s a wonderful and honorable man," said Wayne County Commissioner Irma Clark Coleman. "If you allow this to happen, anyone can get up there and accuse any of you of wrongdoing. I too wish the congressman great health, but I also hope that he does not step down."
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the WZZM 13 app now.
© 2017 Detroit Free Press