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Delegate Danielle Walker, the only Black woman serving in the West Virginia Legislature, had just finished a busy day of committee meetings on the first day of Black History Month when she opened her inbox and found an email that would take her days to process.
The message came from Berkeley County West Virginians for Life, an anti-abortion group east of Walker’s district. In it appeared a graphic of a Ku Klux Klan member giving a Nazi salute with a message for the Democrat, who had recently introduced legislation to roll back West Virginia’s abortion restrictions.
“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,” the email read in part.
“When I opened the attachment I was just drawn back. I absolutely could not wrap my head around why someone would send this to me,” she told HuffPost on Wednesday, just over a week after she received the email.
The graphic that Berkeley County West Virginians for Life sent Walker and posted on Facebook.
Berkeley County West Virginians for Life
Walker began asking her mostly white colleagues in the House of Delegates if they’d received anything like this. After all, she wasn’t the only lawmaker backing the legislation to repeal abortion restrictions.
“No one had received anything of the sort,” said Walker, who added she has received death threats from anti-abortion groups before. White nationalists, like the Klan member featured in the email Walker received, have become increasingly enmeshed in the anti-abortion movement, and vice versa, media investigations have found.
She would soon learn that the group that emailed her had also posted the same graphic and message on its Facebook page, attaching her name to it.
“This should not be tolerated anywhere. I am in no association and no ally to any white supremacist group. To send this to the only Black woman elected in both House and Senate in the state of West Virginia, it was definitely a target,” she said. “You knew exactly what you were doing.”
An attack like this is personal to Walker on multiple levels.
“I am an abortion patient myself,” she said. “And I am also a mother ― also a newly grieving mother as I lost my oldest son in June. So I take personal offense to this when you speak about Black children.”
Walker went public with her outrage earlier this week, broadcasting herself live on Facebook as a group of anti-abortion protesters gathered at the state Capitol building.
“For some of you who have only seen a white sheet and that hat in movies but not up close and personal, you are privileged,” a tearful Walker said on her livestream. She said she planned to leave the Capitol in protective gear that night.
The next day, the anti-abortion group’s chapter president, Richard Demoske, claimed responsibility for posting the KKK image on Facebook and announced his resignation. In a letter, Demoske says he “acted to create confusion about the positions taken by the pro-life people of West Virginia” and that he “composed a poorly designed and easily misunderstood meme that unintentionally conveyed racism.”
“I am not ‘to whom it may concern.’ I am Delegate Danielle Walker, the same way that you greeted me in that nasty email that you sent me.”
The letter does not mention Walker’s name once and is addressed to “To Whom It May Concern.” You can’t find it on the group’s Facebook page, either. She does not consider this an apology.
“I am not ‘to whom it may concern.’ I am Delegate Danielle Walker, the same way that you greeted me in that nasty email that you sent me,” Walker said Wednesday, referring to Demoske.
She has not received any direct communications from the group, which did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request to share any attempts it has made at contacting Walker directly. She would take their call, she added, saying she believes it’s possible to “have a real conversation with respect, because we can agree to disagree.”
The ordeal comes as the West Virginia GOP works to pass a state ban on abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy ― a limit that doctors say has no basis in science. Walker’s efforts to overturn abortion restrictions, meanwhile, will likely be an uphill battle, with Republicans controlling the Legislature.
“The 15-week ban is going to affect the BIPOC community, rural West Virginians, low-, middle-, moderate-income folks,” Walker said. “It’s going to affect every person who chooses to have a health care procedure.”