Lawmakers decided to hold an anti-terrorism seminar in the chamber of the state House of Representatives last week and then decided the conference would be off limits to the public. Really?
Whenever the Legislature is urged to approve a bond issue to repair the crumbling Capitol building, many conservative members who can’t stand bond issues are quick to point out that the Capitol is “the people’s building.” As such, they say, the people themselves should decide whether to approve a bond issue.
Either it’s the people’s building or it’s not. It wasn’t on Friday for Adam Soltani, who heads the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Soltani objected to the seminar, wondering why continuing-education credits were available to police who attended, and saying some of the speakers were anti-Muslim.
State Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, chairman of the House Counterterrorism Caucus, responded by saying Soltani was trying to “deny vital information to our law enforcement officers ...” Then Bennett turned around and tried to deny Soltani admission to the event. A House news release initially said it was open to the public, then said that was in error.
Soltani attempted to register and pay to attend but was told it was full. He and others ended up watching from the gallery. The Tulsa World reported that an attorney working with event organizers questioned Soltani in the gallery and told news reporters in the press gallery that it was closed.
Bennett said he didn’t intend to close the gallery or tell anyone to do so. As for Soltani, the seminar was for law enforcement only “and he is not a police officer,” Bennett said. But “concerned citizens who wanted to be educated on what is going on” were invited to attend, he said.
Note to lawmakers: If you’re going to use “the people’s building” for an event, you need to let the people in, too. Otherwise go somewhere else.