Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) officiated a costumed wedding in Arizona on Saturday where a pair of guests came dressed in Native American outfits.
The wedding took place in Bisbee and guests arrived to the venue in their costumes, with one couple dressed as Native Americans with face paint and full headdresses.
A small group of demonstrators had also gathered outside to protest Sinema’s opposition to a proposed $3.5 trillion infrastructure and social spending bill, called the Build Back Better Act.
There were around 20 protesters outside The Courtyard in downtown Bisbee, where the wedding was taking place.
The wedding schedule had told guests that costumes were welcome at the event, according to a report from The Arizona Daily Star.
Molly Harrico, a protester who saw the people dressed as Native Americans, told the newspaper she was “shocked and appalled and disgusted by the white people who walked into the wedding party dressed in full Native American regalia.”
It is widely considered to be offensive for non-Native American people to dress as Native Americans.
Sinema’s spokesperson Hannah Hurley issued a statement to The Arizona Daily Star via email, saying: “Senator Sinema officiated a personal friend’s wedding at which a small group of activists protested during the private ceremony.
“While the Senator knows the bride and groom, she does not know and did not interact with the wedding guests who wore disrespectful and racist costumes to the ceremony, and she strongly condemns such behavior,” the statement said.
Responding to criticism from the protesters, Hurley’s statement said: “As she has said publicly, Senator Sinema is excited for the opportunity in the legislation to pass policies addressing our changing climate.”
Part of the protest was captured on video and posted to YouTube. It shows the two guests—a man and woman—dressed as Native Americans and wearing headdresses.
The video also shows a woman who identified herself as the bride’s mother asking the protesters to go around the corner for an hour so the wedding could took place. Some of the protesters argued with the woman but the group reportedly agreed not to make noise during the ceremony.
Guests were given small U.S. flags as they arrived at the wedding and the ceremony began with the playing of the national anthem, which can be heard in the video.
Later in the video, Sinema could be seen through a gap in the venue’s wall dancing with a man and someone dressed as a unicorn while one protester outside shouted at her. He said: “Stop taking corporate money” and that he’d been “destroyed by this economy.”
Sinema has faced strong criticism and protests because of her opposition to the price tag of the Build Back Better Act, which would see an expansion of the social safety net and efforts to tackle climate change among other measures.
The Arizona senator’s vote is crucial for Democrats to pass the Build Back Better Act through the budget reconciliation process where every Democratic senator will need to be on board with the final bill.
Newsweek has asked Sinema’s office for comment.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) speaks during a United States Senate Committee on Finance hearing to consider Chris Magnus’s nomination to be Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on October 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Sinema officiated at a wedding on Saturday where two guests dressed as Native Americans.
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