The Montana legislature last week voted to censure Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the state's first openly transgender lawmaker.
The vote meant Zephyr could no longer enter the House chamber, so she worked from a public bench in the hallway outside.
A photo shows a group of women occupying the bench on Monday, glaring at Zephyr, in an image reminiscent of the civil rights movement.
It wasn't enough for Montana's Republican-led state legislature to take away Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr's seat in the legislature. Now people are taking her seat outside of the House chamber too.
The Montana House of Representatives last week voted to censure Zephyr, Montana's first openly transgender lawmaker. The vote came in response to Zephyr criticizing her Republican colleagues for restricting access to gender-affirming care.
Zephyr announced Monday that she is suing to reverse the restrictions placed on her. The censure prevents Zephyr from entering the House floor, so she has instead been working from a public bench outside the chamber.
"Though they initially tried to have me removed from the public seating area, I am here working on behalf of my constituents as best I can given the undemocratic circumstances," Zephyr tweeted on April 27.
A few days later, a photo showed multiple snickering women sitting on the same bench, forcing Zephyr to work standing up at a nearby lunch counter. The women identified themselves as family members of some legislators, according to the Daily Montanan.
"Some folks showed up early this morning and sat on the public benches near the entrance to the House, so Seat 31 has moved," Zephyr tweeted. "I'm up and ready to work. Plus, I hear stand desks are all the rage these days."
The photo, in which the women appear to smile and laugh while leering at Zephyr, is reminiscent of photos taken during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s that show white people mocking and harassing Black people.
In one famous photo from 1957, Elizabeth Eckford is seen weathering the screams and glares of white women as she makes her way to her first day of school at the recently integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.
According to Time Magazine, members of the mob yelled, "Two, four, six, eight, we ain't gonna integrate," as they slapped school books out of Black students' hands and called them racial slurs.
Numerous scenes like this unfolded across the country in the years after the US Supreme Court deemed segregation in public schools unconstitutional in 1954. Photos from the time show authorities in different cities escorting Black children to school through throngs of glaring white protestors.
This sort of intimidation by white people didn't stop at schools. Some white Americans resisted integration in many other public places as well, including famously at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960 when a group of Black college students sat in a whites-only counter.
"The white patrons eyed them warily, and the white waitresses ignored their studiously polite requests for service. The students continued to sit until closing time," Time magazine wrote at the time.
While many white Americans resisted integration, many others actively supported it, sometimes accompanying Black people during protests and sit-ins.
Similarly, a group of supporters on Tuesday managed to hold Zephyr's seat outside the chamber for her, the lawmaker said.
"Some lovely friends saved me a spot on the bench outside the House antechamber, so seat 31 is back to its original home-away-from-home," Zephyr tweeted. "Also thank you to the folks who brought me the earrings and corsage. I am carrying your kindness with me today."
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