MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Arguing that there is never an excuse for racism or misogyny, Miami-Dade’s Democratic Party is demanding the resignation of Miami Senator Frank Artiles.
Artiles has been chastised for using a form of the “n-word” during an exchange with two African-American colleagues.
It happened when he was out with fellow Senators Audrey Gibson from Jacksonville and Perry Thurston from Fort Lauderdale, both are African American. Gibson and Thurston say he used the “n-word” word while describing senators who supported Senate President Joe Negron’s rise to power. He also reportedly called Gibson a “bitch.”
On Wednesday, he apologized on the Senate floor saying his intention in using it was benign.
“I extend a heartfelt apology to my colleagues and all those I have offended,” said Artiles. “I am sorry for the words and the tone I used with you regretfully Monday night.”
The apology was not good enough for Democrats who rallied Thursday morning at Artile’s empty district office on SW 128th Street. They called for him to resign from his position because it was “the only appropriate measure for an elected official who has deeply wounded the diverse community in his district.”
“What state senator or what elected official goes up there uses the “n-word,” calls people “bitches,” hits people at bars. He got a record of this. It ain’t like he just started this. He’s been doing this for years,” said protester Deltravis Williams.
“We want this man to go on the first bus out of this district and out of this state,” said Frank Frost to cheers.
In a second rally, community leaders from District 40, along with residents, gathered at the Bethel Church, at 14440 Lincoln Boulevard, to “share their disgust” over Artiles comments and “call for him to be held accountable for his reprehensible words and actions.”
Former state senator Dwight Bullard had that seat before Artiles. He was joined by pastors and community leaders in Richmond Heights in South West Miami-Dade.
“You called a sitting black woman in the Florida Senate the equivalent of a female dog,” said Bullard.
They vowed that if Artiles does not resign, they’ll get him out anyway through a recall vote.
“We don’t just want him shifted to another position in the Senate, we want him removed from the Senate….It’s not even optional,” said Dr. Jeremy Upton with Refuge Church.
Governor Rick Scott weighed in too while on a South Florida visit.
“It’s disappointing. It’s disgusting. It’s wrong. I don’t know why anybody would say racist or derogatory statements like that,” said Gov. Scott.
Artiles has tried to explain his behavior as cultural, he’s said that’s the way people speak in Hialeah, where he grew up.
Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, whose district borders Hialeah, took issue with that.
“It is not acceptable in Hialeah for that to happen,” Braynon said. “It is not how they talk in Hialeah.”
Republican Sen. Rene Garcia, who represents Hialeah also took offense.
“My constituents and I would agree that this language is simply unacceptable. Senator Artiles owes the residents of Hialeah an apology for unfairly associating them with this kind of behavior,” he said in a written statement.
“State Senator Artiles has disgraced the Florida Senate, Miami-Dade County, and his office. He must resign,” said Congresswoman Frederica Wilson who said Artiles was “a racist man who lacks respect for people of color and who has no regard for the feelings of his constituents.”