Debate in the Iowa House was suspended this afternoon, after a threatening letter to Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad was opened, at his desk on the House floor.
The letter contained a white substance. At this hour a U.S. Postal Inspector is en route to the state capitol to conduct a “field test” of the substance.
Abdul-Samad is in a make-shift “containment area” – the entryway into the House which has swinging doors leading into the House floor and another set of swinging doors about 10 feet away, leading to the rotunda of the statehouse.
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen says at this point, an evacuation is not recommended.
“I talked to the state police about whether or not we need to evacuate the chamber,” Paulsen told reporters at about 4:30 p.m.. “…That was not recommended, for fear that if it is something, we’ll end up spreading it.”
A reporter interjected: “So we’re all on our own.”
Paulsen replied: “We’re all just kind of hanging loose.”
The House had been debating a bill that would ban traffic enforcement cameras in Iowa when debate was suspended at about a quarter ’til four this afternoon. About an hour later a Haz-Mat team arrived at the statehouse, along with an ambulance.
Early last week Abdul-Samad gave a floor speech in the House, wearing a “hoodie” to symbolize his solidarity with those raising questions about the high-profile Trayvon Martin case in Florida. Abdul-Samad is one of five African-Americans who serve in the Iowa House.
(This story was updated at 4:53 p.m. with additional information.)