Rep. Ruqaiyah “Kiah” Morris, the Vermont Legislature’s sole Black woman lawmaker, resigned Tuesday after suffering months of racial threats and harassment.
The Democratic state rep announced her resignation in a Facebook post that evening, citing the need to be with her husband as he recovers from “extensive” open heart surgery as the main reason for her leaving.
“Today, I officially announce my formal resignation from my position as the Vermont State Representative serving the district of Bennington 2-2,” Morris wrote. “It was my intentions to continue service until completion of the current term which ends in January of 2019 … however, this time has proven to be one of significant challenge for my family.”
The lawmaker said her family has faced “continued harassment and seek legal remedies to the harm endured,” adding that she’s stepping away “to focus on caring for and supporting my family during this time of transition and to ensure our health, safety and well-being are prioritized.”
In August, Morris announced she wouldn’t seek re-election after encountering “divisive” and “dangerous” political discourse online, where she was often the target of racist threats. In 2016, someone directed a bigoted tweet at the lawmaker after she clinched the Democratic primary in her bid for re-election as a state representative in her largely white district.
Morris also said her home was broken into, and swastikas were painted on trees near her home. She said the racial harassment lasted over a year. More recently, the lawmaker and her family were forced to stay at an inn after teen pranksters harassed them at their home, according to VT Digger.
“We had propaganda being left underneath the door of the Democratic Party … ,” she told Vermont Edition earlier this year. “I had a home invasion, vandalism, even the woods near my house where we’d go and walk frequently as a family had swastikas painted all over the trees there.”
“So many different things that have been happening that are not terribly unique to Bennington, unfortunately,” she added.
When she reported the harassment to Bennington Police Department, Morris said their response was disappointing.
The Vermont Attorney General’s office and Vermont State Police have promised to investigate the threats.