By Bret Hayworth, Sioux City Journal
SIOUX CITY — Emma Gonzalez got an hourslong look at the hallway outside the downtown office of U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, but didn’t get to discuss gun control policy with his staff members.
Gonzalez was one of several survivors of a high-profile school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who came Wednesday to Sioux City with the “Road To Change Tour.”
In the morning, about 150 people gathered at North High School to discuss ways to elect new officeholders to advance gun control legislation. Then Gonzalez was among about 100 who went to King’s congressional office in the Federal Courthouse.
One Parkland student, Cameron Kasky, led off the boisterous protest on the sidewalk. He contended the $11,000 King has taken in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association makes him beholden to the lobby.
“Steve King is a scary, scary racist who doesn’t care if kids get shot,” Kasky said.
Gonzalez, who has been in a war of words with supporters of King and his campaign office, followed Kasky. In a Facebook post written in March, King mocked Gonzalez, who is of Cuban heritage, for wearing a Cuban flag patch on her jacket as she spoke at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington earlier this year.
In the weeks since, Gonzalez has had an increasing national profile for her outspoken stances on policymakers and gun laws.
When she spoke Wednesday, Gonzalez read the names of teens who have been killed in school shootings. She said 96 people die every day from gun violence in the United States, so “we must come together to save lives and end gun violence.”
She then referenced King, saying, “He called me a Communist, because my family is from Cuba.”
Among the March Facebook post comments and replies, a person on King’s team wrote, “Pointing out the irony of someone wearing the flag of a Communist country while simultaneously calling for gun control isn’t ‘picking’ on anyone.”
The rally participants sought to speak with people in King’s office. Kasky said he was asked to leave the office, but shared that a representative politely said she would hear views of people, two at time inside the office. However, Kasky and rally participant Matt Deitsch, of Florida, said that changed and people were shortly thereafter locked out.
At 4 p.m., Gonzalez and 20 other people were seen waiting in the hall outside King’s office, where they had been for more than an hour. She declined to give an interview, saying she was busy “making friends” with the people sitting on the floor. The group remained there until 5 p.m., when the building was closed for the day.
Deitsch said it was unfortunate that King’s team can ridicule Gonzalez but not hold a policy discussion on guns with her.