Conservative members of a federal civil rights commission pushed Friday for changes to how the agency operates that would greatly limit its dissemination of information on historic and current civil rights issues.
The proposed amendments by Commissioner Stephen Gilchrist, a Republican appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2020, were to change the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ strategic plan so that any public information – on social media or elsewhere – would first need to receive a majority vote from its members.
The suggestion was met with vehement pushback from Commissioner Michael Yaki, a Democrat, who argued that “the history of civil rights in this country are not subject to majority rule,” citing examples of historical events such as the Montgomery bus boycott, Rosa Parks, or the March on Washington.
“Those are things that have happened,” Yaki said. “To say that only those things approved by a majority of the commission get to see the light of day is to essentially put a muzzle on history and put a muzzle on what this commission is supposed to do.”
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ overall goals are to “keep the public apprised of historic and current civil rights issues,” including routinely posting to social media. But at least one instigating cause of concern were problematic tweets, said Commissioner Gail Heriot, an Independent, who seconded the motion. She did not provide any examples of those tweets at the commission’s monthly meeting Friday.