Religious leaders, lawmakers call for Artiles to resign after racist slurs

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Religious leaders joined a growing chorus of lawmakers and concerned citizens demanding a Florida senator resign after he reportedly made racist slurs during a conversation with other senators, earlier this week.

Thursday afternoon, religious leaders held a news conference on the steps of The Bethel Church, located at 14440 Lincoln Blvd., in Southwest Miami-Dade, in response to the reported comments made by Republican Sen. Frank Artiles.

The Rev. Robert Brooks of St. Peter’s Missionary Baptist Church also called on Artiles to step down. “We say to you, senator, that you have disqualified yourself,” he said. “We’re calling for you to resign because you’ve demonstrated a lack of sensitivity to our people.”

According to a report, Artiles used a racial slur and vulgar insults during a private, after-hours conversation with two African-American colleagues. The former chairman of the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee gave a three-minute apology on the Senate floor, Wednesday, but residents believe it is not enough.

“I do not accept him as my representative,” said concerned citizen Frank Frost during a protest held outside Artiles’ district office in Southwest Miami-Dade, Thursday morning.

“We have somebody in Tallahassee that don’t even respect the black community,” said another citizen Deltravis Williams. “What state senator or what elected official uses the n-word, calling people b’s?”

Members of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and other citizens demanded Artiles step down as a senator. The protest signs were left outside of Artiles’ office for him to see when he returns to Miami.

“Frank Artiles does not represent this community, has no respect for this community and should resign immediately,” said Miami-Dade Democratic Party member Juan Cuba.

“You’ve insulted our community. You’ve insulted our culture, and you’ve insulted the clergy,” said Brooks. “We stand representing a community of voters, a community of very respectful people, and we do not appreciate it.”

The reports stated that Artiles used a variation of the “n-word” in a conversation at Tallahassee’s Governor’s Club with Democratic Sens. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale. Artiles called Gibson obscenities, including one particularly offensive to women, during a conversation at the members-only Governors Club, which is a short walk from the Capitol.

After Thurston intervened, Artiles continued on and blamed “six [n-word]” for letting Senate President Joe Negron rise to power. He also referred to Negron using a vulgar term.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott commented on the situation, Thursday morning.

“It’s disappointing,” said Scott. “It’s disgusting. It’s wrong. I mean, I don’t know why anyone would say racist or derogatory statements like that.”

At Thursday afternoon’s news conference, Brooks said they would take measures if Artiles refused to resign. “We will call for a recall,” he said.

Members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus have filed a complaint against Artiles and are asking for his expulsion. Their complaint is currently under investigation, and a report is due on Tuesday.

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