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A month after being booed at MLK Day rally, McMorris Rodgers tours MLK Family Outreach Center in Spokane

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 21, 2017

A month after U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was chanted off the stage at the Martin Luther King Jr. Rally and Unity March, the congresswoman toured Spokane’s MLK Family Outreach Center at the invitation of the center’s executive director.

“I do understand where people were coming from” in their reaction to the congresswoman’s speech at the rally, said Freda Gandy, the executive director. “But we were there to hear from her, and to be in the same room together.”

McMorris Rodgers’ speech on Jan. 16 abruptly ended after the crowd began chanting “save our healthcare” and booing. Gandy took the stage after McMorris Rodgers’ departure and admonished the crowd for their behavior.

Following that event, Gandy invited McMorris Rodgers to the MLK Family Outreach Center. To her surprise, the congresswoman accepted.

And for about a half hour Tuesday morning, Gandy and McMorris Rodgers toured the small, single-story building where about 150 kids attend preschool and other programs.

“We’re here to highlight all your work, to get you the resources you need,” McMorris Rodgers said to the center’s staff as she walked through the door.

Gandy led the congresswoman through the center, while the sound of preschoolers singing and dancing reverberated. The pair discussed the center’s storied past and its plans to expand in the coming year.

“We’re going to build a two-story building on this lot,” Gandy said. “Every time I give people a tour, they say ‘Oh yeah, you could use a new building.’”

The tour ended outside, in the playground next to a colorful mural where a racial slur was spray-painted late last year.

“Is that where that was? McMorris Rodgers asked. “That beautiful mural?”

“Yes, that mural,” Gandy said. “Now kids get to see that rather than the racist graffiti.”

Once news of the graffiti broke, McMorris Rodgers, who is currently on congressional recess, said she reached out to Gandy, asking if she needed any support.

“It was helpful to see what the programming is that they currently offer, and see the facilities,” she said. “And just to better understand what they’re doing at the center, so that I can be helpful too.”

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