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After trying to make a statement about the late Tom Hayden and his opposition to the Vietnam War, Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) was removed from the floor of the state Senate on Thursday, a tense scene that ended in a slew of angry accusations from both Republicans and Democrats.
Nguyen, who was brought to the United States as a Vietnamese refugee when she was a child, said she wanted to offer "a different historical perspective" on what Hayden and his opposition to the war had meant to her and other refugees.
Hayden, the former state legislator who died last October, was remembered in a Senate ceremony Tuesday.
Nguyen's comments were interrupted by the Senate's majority leader, Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), who said she was "out of order." Nguyen, however, refused to stop talking. The presiding officer for the day, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), then instructed the Senate's sergeants-at-arms to remove the Republican lawmaker from the floor.
"I'm very sad because the very people who elected me to represent them and be their voice on the Senate floor, I wasn't allowed to speak on their behalf," Nguyen said later in an interview with The Times.
Democrats insisted that the incident was caused by Nguyen's choice to use what's known as a "point of personal privilege" to close the session — a choice they said was inappropriate. Dan Reeves, chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), told reporters that Nguyen had been offered the chance to speak at a different time.
"She got exactly what she wanted, which wasn't to speak," Reeves said. "She wanted to cause a scene for her district."
Nguyen said she was told by Democratic leaders of the Senate to post her statement online, and not offer it during Thursday's floor session. Later, they suggested she speak after the adjournment motions, but Nguyen said she was told by parliamentary rules officials she could not do so.
"I was told I cannot speak on the issue at all," she said.
Hayden was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and made celebrated trips to North Vietnam and Cambodia, offering to help broker a peaceful end. Nguyen, who did not speak during the remembrance of Hayden earlier in the week, said the late Democratic activist's efforts were seen differently by refugees and "all those who fought in Vietnam for freedom and democracy."
In the statement which she later posted on her official Senate website , Nguyen criticized Hayden for siding "with a communist government that enslaved and/or killed millions of Vietnamese, including members of my own family."
At an unrelated event after the Senate session, De León told reporters he planned to speak with Nguyen and take a closer look at the circumstances surrounding the unusual event.
Update 4:40 p.m. This story has been updated with additional information about the statement the senator was attempting to read when she was removed from the Senate chamber.