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Rep. Issa calls for charges against SoCal man who interrupted State of the Union

Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Bonsall) urged Capitol Police on Tuesday to drop charges against the Southern California father who interrupted the State of the Union address by shouting his son’s name and where he was killed in Afghanistan.

Steve Nikoui, 51, father of a US Marine who was killed in 2021 as US forces withdrew from Afghanistan, was arrested in the House chamber on March 7 for interrupting President Biden’s State of the Union address . He shouted the names of Marines killed in a suicide bombing, including his son Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui and ‘Abbey Gate’, the site of the airport attack.

“The arrest of Mr. Nikoui for emotionally expressing his grief and seeking recognition for his son’s sacrifice during the State of the Union – where he shouted, ‘Abbey Gate! Kareem Nikoui! Second Battalion, First Marines!” – highlighted a profound gap between the sacrifices our service members have made and the recognition they deserve. Although he interrupted the event, what Mr. Nikoui expressed out loud was a call for recognition of the loss suffered by the families of the 13 who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Issa wrote in a letter to Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger on Tuesday.

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Issa joins other Republicans pushing to drop the felony charges against Nikoui, noting that Fred Guttenberg, the father of a victim of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, mass shooting, was escorted from the State of the Union President Trump’s speech in 2020. shouting, but was not arrested.

Nikoui, of Norco in Riverside County, attended the speech as a guest of Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.). Conflicting accounts have emerged about whether Nikoui got caught up in the moment or entered the House chamber with the intention of interrupting the speech.

Capitol Police gave Nikoui several warnings to stop yelling before removing him from the chamber around 10:15 PM ET.

“Disrupting Congress and demonstrating in the congressional buildings is illegal,” the department said in a statement released that evening.

A Capitol Police spokesperson referred further questions to the attorney general of the District of Columbia. A spokesperson for the attorney general declined to comment.

While police make arrests, it is up to prosecutors to decide whether to pursue charges. As such, Capitol Police have no control over whether Nikoui is charged.

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Nikoui is expected to appear in court on March 28. He faces a fine of up to $500, although that amount is routinely reduced to $50.

Nikoui’s situation has drawn attention due to the circumstances of his protest and Republican representatives calling for the charges to be dropped. But the accusation is fairly routine for protesters undermining Congress’s ability to operate.

Protests are so common on Capitol Hill that those expecting to be arrested often hold $50 in their hands to pay the fine while they wait for Capitol Police to arrive.

On Tuesday alone, six people appeared in the District of Columbia Superior Court on charges of crowding, obstruction or interference.

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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