Black lawmaker files complaint, says statehouse security stop, search her

State Rep. Emilia Sykes

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State Rep. Emilia Sykes

State Rep. Emilia Sykes, a two-term lawmaker from Akron, filed a formal complaint, saying state troopers and security officers regularly stop and search her when she enters the Ohio Statehouse and office tower while her white male colleagues don’t get the same scrutiny.

“I’m having trouble even getting into the building so how am I going to be an effective representative if I can’t get in the building?” Sykes said. She noted that she follows the security protocols — presenting her state-issued identification badge that allows lawmakers, staff and other who regularly use the building to bypass security.

“I’m still getting stopped and searched and this doesn’t seem normal.”

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Sykes, 32, is African-American, an attorney and the daughter of a former state representative and current state senator. She said other black female lawmakers and staffers have reported receiving extra scrutiny from security.

“This kind of treatment sends the message ‘You do not belong.’ As an elected official, that troubles me,” Sykes wrote in a three page complaint sent this week to Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born. Sykes said she plans to meet with Born next week.

“We remain committed to providing safety with fair and equal treatment for everyone who enters the Capitol Square complex,” said Lt. Robert Sellers, spokesman for the Ohio Highway Patrol.

The Statehouse is secured by the patrol; Riffe office tower is secured by the patrol and officers hired by the Department of Administrative Services; and the Sergeant-at-Arms staff provides security for the House and Senate chambers and legislative leaders.

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Since 2015, the Statehouse added metal detectors and other security upgrades. Metal detectors were added to the Riffe this year.

Sykes said people need to re-think what the face of leadership looks like.

Sykes tweeted on Thursday: “I am one of 276 Black women elected to a state legislature. 19 Black women serve in the United States Congress. Countless Black women serve as public servants at the local level. We demand to be respected in every policy house, at every table, in every seat! #WeBelongHere”

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