Virginia Delegate Ibraheem Samirah interrupted a speech by President Trump in Jamestown, Virginia, Tuesday: “You can’t send us back, Virginia is our home!” the Herndon dentist shouted before being escorted out of the tent.
Reached by phone, Samirah says discussions began after the Virginia House Democrats announced they planned to boycott Trump’s appearance, as did the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. Members wanted to “make sure they were boycotting but doing it in their own way,” he says. “I chose my way that was one to be loud and clear.”
Samirah chose a spot where he would be sure both Trump and the press could see him. Asked how he got the signs he held up during the introduction, one of which said “Go Back to Your Corrupted Home,” Samirah says, “I guess we snuck them in.”
As he was escorted out by officers from the Virginia Division of Capitol Police and the Secret Service, Samirah says someone tried to trip him. Others present chanted Trump’s name. He says he wasn’t especially worried about it. “I knew I was essentially at a Trump rally, and I knew what to expect,” he says. “It’s one of the reasons I chose to make this event a place where I sent a Democratic message loud and clear to the commander-in-chief.” As a Muslim-American, he says, he is “constantly watching my back” anyway. Samirah confirms that the Secret Service questioned him, mostly just to ask about whether he had any intention of “wrongdoing” toward the President.
House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox criticized Samirah’s action and said he broke the chamber’s rules. Delegate Lee Carter tweeted support for Samirah, who on Twitter is now one of the most-followed Democrats in the chamber. The Virginia House Democrats released a statement acknowledging that some of its members chose to attend the session “while publicly stating their opposition” to Trump’s most recent racist attacks on lawmakers. Senator Bill Carrico, the Virginian-Pilot reports, interrupted one of Samirah’s post-disruption interviews to say “You are an embarrassment to this state and you should go home.”
Samirah he heard a similar sentiment from Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, who he says approached him “and was telling me you shouldn’t have come to this event, you should have gone back home. I said this is literally what I came here to fight.” (Jeff Ryer, a spokesperson for Norment, couldn’t confirm the interaction but tells Washingtonian that “The Senator’s admonition would have been that the delegate should not have attended the event.”)
Samirah says that as far as he knows his constituents (and his dental practice patients) haven’t objected to his disruption and that his immediate plans include campaigning for Democrats to flip Virginia’s legislature in this fall’s elections. “We have to make sure that 2019 is a big blue year,” he says.