After having her angry remarks on a controversial stand-your-ground bill viewed more than 10 million times on the Internet in the past week, state Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, addressed her viral fame from the floor of the Senate on Monday.
The longtime legislator told her fellow senators that she was proud that her point of view had spread so far.
"I don't apologize for my expression, and my passion, and my emotion," Flowers said.
Flowers' temper flared last week as she spoke in a committee meeting against Senate Bill 484 by Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, a proposal that would eliminate a "duty to retreat" from Arkansas' self-defense law. Similar laws are nearly ubiquitous in the South and have been enacted in 25 states. SB484 failed to get out of committee last week. Video from the meeting -- focusing on Flowers' outburst -- showed up on social media and on news shows.
Opponents of so-called stand-your-ground laws, including Flowers, say they increase the likelihood of violence against black people.
On Monday, Flowers said she had received more than 600 messages of support from the public since Wednesday, and only several angry or threatening responses. On Sunday, the senator also discussed her reaction to SB484 in an interview with CNN's Fredricka Whitfield.
Although Flowers said she appreciated the attention, she told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Monday that some of the publicity felt opportunistic.
"All of a sudden I'm visible," said Flowers, who began serving in the House in 2005 and moved to the Senate in 2011. She has spoken out before, passionately, on the issue of gun violence.
After she began to gain attention online last week, knowledge of Flowers' personal connections to gun violence also began to spread. One clip arose showing Flowers speaking in 2017 about the death of her sister, who was shot and killed in Texas in 1969.
Flowers also told a reporter Monday that her great-grandfather, Alonzo Flowers, was among those killed in the Howard County Race Riot of 1883.
Two of the Republicans who had pushed for SB484 in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week and to whom Flowers had directed a part of her ire -- Ballinger and Sen. Trent Garner of El Dorado -- used several Twitter posts over the weekend to push back against Flowers' remarks. The senator from Pine Bluff had used several profanities and threatened to "invoke" the legislation if it passed.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, quashed any thought of censure Monday, telling the Senate that he would not support any effort to punish Flowers.
Ballinger also said Monday that he would not seek to censure Flowers, though he added that her remarks were "not justifiable."
Flowers also took time on Monday to correct some of the record surrounding the hearing and vote on SB484.
In Senate footage of the hearing that was shared widely on social media, the committee chairman, Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, can clearly be heard telling Flowers "you need to stop." What's less clear in the audio, Clark said, is his adding the words, "with the profanity."
Flowers responded to Clark at the hearing: "No, I don't. What the hell are you gonna do, shoot me?"
Online, much of the reaction was critical of Clark. A headline on The Washington Post website said, referring to Clark as a "GOP lawmaker," that he had attempted to "silence" Flowers.
"I felt bad about Alan getting the brunt" of the criticism, Flowers said Monday.
The real impetus for her ire, Flowers said, was that a second motion to limit the debate on SB484 last week came from her two fellow Democrats on the committee, who had opposed an earlier motion to limit the debate. Sen. Will Bond, D-Little Rock, who had moved to limit the debate, said Monday that he did so because he believed there were enough votes on the committee to vote down the bill, which is what eventually happened.
Among the Democrats who responded to her viral video were U.S. senators -- and declared presidential candidates -- Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
"They were all trying to get me to call them," Flowers told a reporter from the Democrat-Gazette on Monday evening, referring to the response from national Democrats.
"I thought that they were trying to use me. I didn't appreciate it."
Flowers said she believed that SB484 was effectively dead this session. As the Judiciary Committee met again Monday, no motion was made to rehash consideration of the bill.
Ballinger, however, said he would bring the bill up again if he has the votes to do so.
Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
A Section on 03/12/2019
Print Headline: Gun remarks revisited by state senator; views on stand-your-ground bill shared in viral video