Originally published at MintPress News.
BALTIMORE — Dr. Margaret Flowers, a Green Party candidate for Senate from Maryland, interrupted a televised debate to protest her exclusion from the forum on Wednesday.
“I’m a candidate on the ballot. I have a statewide campaign. I don’t understand why I’m not up here,” Flowers declared as she briefly occupied the debate stage.
— Dr. Margaret Flowers (@flowers4senate) October 26, 2016
Flowers is running for the seat long occupied by Democratic incumbent Barbara Mikulski, who announced her retirement earlier this year.
During the direct action, Flowers took the stage amid loud applause from the audience and shook hands with her opponents, Democratic nominee Chris Van Hollen and Republican nominee Kathy Szeliga, both of whom agreed to debate Flowers.
Despite being welcomed by her opponents, the organizers of the debate, CBS Baltimore and the University of Baltimore, refused to allow Flowers to participate.
After briefly holding forth on the stage, police escorted her from the premises. As she was being led away, Flowers loudly declared that the way alternative candidates like her are treated is “why our Democracy is a sham.”
After Flowers was led from the room, an audience member asserted his own support for open debates. He said:
We need to have open debates at the national level, at the state level, at all levels. If we’re supposed to be a democracy, why in God’s name are we excluding people from democracy? America is supposed to be the model for democracy, and the corporate media telling us that we can’t have more people at these debates — when is it going to end?
Other members of the audience also voiced support for Flowers’ inclusion in the debate, including Kevin Zeese, who runs Popular Resistance alongside Flowers and who filmed the incident, shouting: “Let her on the stage!” Police escorted both men out of the building.
After the debate, the Flowers campaign issued a brief statement voicing her support for health care reform, for an end to foreign wars, and for the United States to invest heavily into renewable energy and fighting climate change. In part, the statement reads:
My exclusion means the voters will not know what I stand for and how I compare to the other candidates. While I have obvious differences with Republican views, I also have significant differences with Van Hollen. I am one of only twelve congressional candidates in the nation certified as a clean money candidate while Van Hollen has raised millions of dollars from big business lobbyists on K Street including from the fracking industry, weapons makers and big banks.
According to a press release issued on Thursday by the campaign, the Sinclair Broadcast Group has offered to host a three-way debate on one of its stations. Of the three candidates, Van Hollen is the only one who refuses to participate. In the statement, Flowers said:
Chris Van Hollen knows that if I am included in the debate his phony politics will be exposed. I will tell voters that Van Hollen has raised millions of campaign donations from wealthy lobbyists and industries such as natural gas, telecoms and weapons makers as well as how the policies he urges favor Wall Street investors and war. He is avoiding vigorous open debates because he has the funds to buy advertising and not risk being exposed.
Flowers, who is a pediatrician, became involved in politics and activism after she realized many of her patients and their families could not afford medical care. No stranger to direct action, Flowers was arrested in 2012 for protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and again in 2014 for protesting a natural gas terminal in Cove Point, Maryland. InJanuary 2015, police escorted her out of the Senate as she interrupted TPP negotiations.
She also serves as co-director of Popular Resistance, which organizes and reports on protests throughout the United States, and occasionally contributes reporting and analysis to MintPress News.
In May, she told MintPress that she saw her candidacy as an opportunity to work with a political party “that can work hand in hand with social movements to get the change we need.”
“We have to build up a party that is the alternative we want to see, that really is dedicated to social justice and grassroots democracy,” Flowers said.