A growing chorus of criticism doesn’t move Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who remains defiant in wake of his anti-police statements.
Senator after senator Thursday criticized Chambers for stating his ISIS is the police and implying that if he carried a gun and was confronted by police he would shoot first and ask questions later.
Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha told Chambers he, too, is concerned when police abuse their power. Hilkemann asked Chambers if he was saying that law enforcement was fair game and if he wanted to live in a society of chaos.
“No one, police included, is above the law,” Hilkemann stated. “With you Sen. Chambers, I believe that black lives matter. But, Sen. Chambers I also believe that blue lives matter.”
Several senators called for Chambers to apologize for the remarks he made last week during a Judiciary Committee hearing on a conceal and carry bill. A couple of senators asked for a clarification of the remarks. One called for Chambers to resign.
Others took a different tact, reminding colleagues about the right to free speech. Speaker Galen Hadley of Kearney and Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings provided lessons about how far that right extends to lawmakers speaking during legislative floor debate or in a committee meeting; that the right is absolute, that legislators cannot be held criminally or civilly liable for what they say during debate or in a committee meeting.
A few provided a qualified defense of Chambers.
“What a wonderful opportunity we have to pile on to Sen. Chambers. What a wonderful opportunity we have to defend the right of free speech,” Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins said, adding that he didn’t defend what Chambers said, only his right to say it.
Chambers remained defiant throughout, at one point calling his critics a mob, saying they would not criticize him without the backing of others.
“I’m not going to run from this chamber,” Chambers stated. “I’m going to stay here and I’m going to confront you. I’m going to face you and I’m going to fight you any way that you choose.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]
AUDIO: Sen. Ernie Chambers answers critics during Thursday legislative floor debate [4 min.]
Transcript of Judiciary Committee hearing (relevant passage begins on page 26)
AUDIO: Excerpt of 3-20-15 Judiciary Committee hearing. [8 min.]