Despite taking heat from both sides of the aisle and receiving an email that threatened she might be lynched, Rep. Maxine Waters didnt back down Monday from her call for voters to “push back” against members of the Trump administration if they bump into them in public.
On Sunday, Waters, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Los Angeles, Carson and south Los Angeles, was widely quoted arguing for personal confrontation.
“If you see anybody from that (Trump) Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them theyre not welcome anymore, anywhere,” Rep. Waters told supporters.
On Monday, Trump fired back, writing on Twitter that Waters is an “extraordinarily low IQ person,” and hinting that she might be the target of similar confrontations — “be careful what you wish for Max!”
Many Democrats backed away from Waters aggressive stance. They said despite their opposition to Trump immigration policies that have resulted in at least 2,300 children being separated from their parents — the move that Waters cited as the reason for her call for raised voices — politics should remain civil.
“No one should call for the harassment of political opponents,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Monday. “Thats not right. Thats not American.”
Waters stood by her comments during an interview Monday evening, pointing out that people were confronting members of Trumps administration — particularly in response to the administrations “zero tolerance” immigration policy — long before she waded into the issue.
The congresswoman blamed Trump for encouraging violence. She noted the “subtle threat” he lodged at her via Twitter along with a death threat she said she reported to police on Monday, which called for tying a noose around her “scrawny neck” and lynching her.
“I did not call for harm or violence,” Waters said. “I say to people, use your voice in whatever peaceful way you want to.”
The standoff has sparked widespread debate about the line between a call for justified civil disobedience and potentially inciting violence — and about the current state of political discourse in America.
The conflict kicked off after Trumps press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said the owner of a small restaurant in Virginia refused to serve her Friday night because she works for Trump.
Days earlier, protesters shouted at both Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House advisor Stephen Miller as they ate dinner at different Mexican restaurants on the same night in Washington, D.C.
Waters first encouraged such confrontations Saturday during a rally in Los Angeles to protest families being separated at the border. After calling for Trumps impeachment, she urged attendees to get on the right side of history by standing up to the current administration.
Waters doubled down on the position later Sunday, telling an MSNBC host that she has “no sympathy” for politicians who might harbor frustration over Trump policies but are standing beside Trump out of political expediency.
“The people are going to turn on them, theyre going to protest, theyre going to absolutely harass them until they decide that theyre going to tell the president, No I cant hang with you. This is wrong, this is unconscionable, we cant keep doing this to children.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, rebuked Waters comments via tweet, saying, “Trumps daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable.”
Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, also distanced himself from the “tactics” Waters endorsed. He said during an MSNBC interview that he supports confronting members of the Trump administration, but that it should be done in way that recognizes “the dignity of even those who you oppose.”
Backlash from the right was swift, with Trump supporters on social media calling Waters a “domestic terrorist” who should be charged with “inciting violence.”
Sanders condemned the comments during Mondays White House press briefing, saying, “We are allowed to disagree, but we should be able to do so freely and without fear of harm.”
A petition calling for Waters expulsion from Congress had gathered several thousand signatures by noon.
Some Trump supporters used racial slurs when referring to Waters on Twitter, urging people to harass the congresswoman, her staff and friends “to show her how it feels.”
A staffer at Waters Los Angeles office said theyd heard about people threatening to harass them in retaliation, but that to date theyve received only angry phone calls. By midday Monday, Waters voicemail in her D.C. office was full.
Waters has been in politics since 1977, serving 14 years in the California Assembly before her 1990 election to Congress.
During the June 5 primary, Waters garnered 71.6 percent of the vote and will face off in November against Republican Omar Navarro to represent the 43rd congressional district.