Lawmaker Sues Anti-Abortion Group After They Sent KKK Image: 'Guess Who Decided to Take a Stand?'

Delegate Danielle Walker alleges the message was the "modern-day digital equivalent of burning a cross" in her yard — the group has since offered a broad apology and said it acted "unintentionally"

Democratic Del. Danielle Walker
Danielle Walker. Photo: Leah Willingham/AP

West Virginia Delegate Danielle Walker is suing an anti-abortion group after it sent her an explosive message featuring a member of the Klu Klux Klan and imploring her to "be PRO-LIFE as if your race depended on it!"

Walker, who is the only Black woman serving in the state's legislature, filed a complaint against Berkeley County West Virginians for Life after she said the group emailed her on Feb. 1 with the subject line: "Your plan."

That line is seemingly in reference to a bill the Democrat co-sponsored which aimed to roll back some of West Virginia's most recent abortion restrictions.

But Walker says the email went further than commenting on a piece of legislation: It included an image of a Ku Klux Klan member giving a Nazi salute.

The graphic — which according to Walker's suit was not sent to any other delegate — also included a message: "What do you think the coward hiding under his dunce cap and face mask thinks everytime he hears about a black child has been aborted [sic]? Be PRO-LIFE as if your race depended on it! It's the American thing to do!"

The email included another foreboding message, Walker says: "The idiot featured in the picture below is an ally of yours and holds the same beliefs you do that the killing of children look like you is a good thing."

Now Walker is suing, alleging that the group intentionally and negligently inflicted emotional distress and that it violated West Virginia Code 61-5-27, which bans the intimidation of and retaliation against public officers and employees.

She also says she has received threats and been fearful for her life in the weeks since receiving the email.

According to her complaint, Walker's suit comes "in response to a violent, racist, hateful, and intimidating email and Facebook post, authored and posted by the West Virginians for Life, using a Ku Klux Klansman in full KKK hood and robe throwing a Nazi salute to harass and intimidate West Virginia's only black female lawmaker from supporting a pro-choice bill."

Walker's suit alleges "the actions taken by West Virginians for Life constitute the modern-day digital equivalent of burning a cross in Delegate Walker's front yard. Everyone knows that burning a cross in the front yard means 'do what we white supremacists want, or we are coming back, and it will be worse when we do.' "

West Virginians for Life acknowledged that the image had been sent to Walker and offered a broad apology in a letter that was not addressed to Walker but "To whom it may concern."

The president of the Berkeley chapter of the group — Richard Demoske — resigned from his position, writing in the letter, "In an effort to oppose racism, I composed a poorly designed and easily misunderstood meme that unintentionally conveyed racism."

The group did not respond to requests for comment from PEOPLE.

According to a press release sent to PEOPLE by her attorney, Walker is "shaken" and "in fear for her life and for the safety of her family members."

Still, she is choosing to go public, tweeting this week: "Guess who decided to take a stand? Guess who has received threats in 2020/2021/2022? Guess who continues to raise her voice? Guess who will continue to support reproductive healthcare? I am She! I am Delegate Danielle Walker!"

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