Wis. Teacher Refuses Award From Paul Ryan During MLK Ceremony: ‘Lackey for the 1%’
A Wisconsin teacher refused to accept an award from Rep. Paul Ryan during a ceremony last week, saying he couldn’t do so “in good conscience” because of the Republican congressman’s politics.
Al Levie, a high school social studies teacher in Racine, Wis., was one of three recipients of a Martin Luther King Jr. humanitarian award during a celebration honoring the late civil rights leader. Ryan, who represents the district, was on hand to present congressional recognitions to each award winner, the Kenosha News reported:
After Ryan spoke, Levie criticized the congressman’s policies before being walked off the stage. Levie had earlier stated that he would like to see collective bargaining restored in Wisconsin, fair immigration reform and a fair tax system among other suggestions.
In a video of the ceremony, Ryan is seen stepping from behind the podium to hand the award to Levie, who backs away and instead turns to speak to the audience. His words aren’t audible, but according to the video’s captions he said, “I can’t in good conscience accept this award, as a humanitarian, Paul Ryan stands for everything I don’t believe in.”
“Oh come on,” one person is heard saying.
“For the kids!” someone else adds.
The video was posted by Wisconsin Jobs Now, a coalition of community groups from across the state that advocates for “the 99 percent.” Levie appeared on the video afterward to explain his protest.
“I would not accept the award from Paul Ryan because Paul Ryan is a lackey for the 1 percent,” he said. “Paul Ryan had no business at a Martin Luther King event, it’s totally hypocritical. On the one hand he votes to slash health care, while on the other hand, King dedicated his life and he died for it, for people to have adequate healthcare, to have adequate jobs.”
“King made it very clear that he was on the side of working people,” he continued. “Ryan on the other hand, he has absolutely no affinity for the working class and for him to come to an event where somebody of King’s stature was honored is wrong.”
According to the Racine Journal Times, Levie serves with Voces de la Frontera, an advocacy group for immigrant and low wage worker rights, and is part of the local NAACP. He’s also a teacher and program director for the Wisconsin Correctional Service.