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Rep. Waters: Confront White House officials

Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) reacts to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) calling on supporters to confront White House officials and Trump cabinet members.

Posted: Jun 26, 2018 1:56 AM
Updated: Jun 26, 2018 1:56 AM

Over the weekend, Rep. Maxine Waters -- a vocal critic of President Donald Trump -- directly called for her supporters to publicly confront members of the Trump administration over a "zero-tolerance" policy that separated children from parents who illegally crossed the southern border.

Protest and demonstration is common in our political environment, but the remarks by Waters, a California Democrat, signal not just dissent, they introduce the possibility of direct harassment of government officials — and not just in the public arena but in their private activities as well.

"For these members of his Cabinet who remain and try to defend him, they're not going to be able to go to a restaurant, to be able to stop at a gas station, to be able to shop at a department store. The people are going to turn on them, they're going to protest, they're going to absolutely harass them until they tell the President: 'No, I can't hang with you,'" said Waters over the weekend during an interview.

These statements go beyond breaking the norms of civil discourse; they are dangerous, as they can be misinterpreted as a call to physical action or harm against an individual and people who associate with them.

As a former United States Secret Service agent, I am keenly aware of the evolutionary process by which a protest that grows around a politically charged ethos can act as the catalyst for violent action by an individual or group. Law enforcement has long known of the potential for such phases to transform rhetoric into destructiveness, or physical harm toward people.

The biggest concern is that individuals with malicious intent, often alerted and supported by social media, join those protesting over a specific incident or incidents, and co-opt the issue for the purpose of causing damage and harm. Often these individuals are not concerned or associated with the political protest that gave rise to the disturbance, but leverage the totality of the circumstances and take aim against targets of opportunity, in this case, administration officials.

Because incidents of civil unrest are dynamic and uniquely defined by the nature of the initial cause -- in this case, the administration's policy toward illegal immigration -- government officials are individually ill-prepared to defend themselves from the physical threats they might face. They don't know who will see them -- players (maybe even bit players) in the administration -- as a deserving target for violence.

As a public official, Waters should be held to a higher standard in her comments and actions. She has a responsibility, a "duty of care" of sorts, to prevent specific acts that one might foresee could provoke harm. But rather than exemplifying a higher standard, Waters has retreated along the behavioral continuum toward endorsing mob-rule to satisfy a political goal.

She is not the only one to have reached for this strategy, to be sure. When he was running for office, Trump himself repeatedly whipped up crowds to encourage violence toward protesters. It is always wrong, and its use by one political "side" never justifies its "in-kind" use by the other.

Where does this end? Do we allow roving bands of protesters throughout Washington to use direct harassment and potential violence as they try to address the myriad policy decisions made each day? I should hope that we are better than this.

Elements often found in law enforcement de-escalation tactics readily apply to today's heightened political tensions. For example:

• De-escalation begins with the individual. Understanding how to prevent one's comments from spiraling into a vortex of chaos exacerbating a situation is a necessary first step. Waters' comments did the opposite; they caused the vortex to spin faster.

• Treat others with respect. Do not be the individual who causes the problems or makes situations worse; encouraging the harassment of others was wrong and disrespectful.

• Focus more on desired outcomes and less on what has happened in the past. Waters and others should seek to legislate immigration policy for a successful resolution, not use past incidents as a call to arms.

• Do not make issues personal and do not take issues personally when dealing with a conflict. Encouraging followers to "create a crowd" and tell people "they are not welcome" is personal.

Our elected officials, Democrats and Republicans alike, need to encourage civil discourse, not civil unrest. Calling for harassment of administrations officials and urging others to "push back on them" is the wrong approach. It only perpetuates a political environment filled with vitriol and hate.

I call on Waters to re-evaluate her comments and find a more productive pathway to address the immigration issues — one that brings help, not harm.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 441935

Reported Deaths: 5885
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin918591461
Ramsey39405729
Dakota32551324
Anoka30638354
Washington19827221
Stearns17686184
St. Louis13453237
Scott1178693
Wright11485101
Olmsted1024870
Sherburne812364
Carver686636
Clay643278
Rice595266
Kandiyohi551069
Blue Earth533833
Crow Wing476573
Otter Tail449860
Chisago446331
Benton414885
Winona383946
Douglas370366
Nobles364646
Mower358026
Goodhue340757
Polk326754
McLeod321644
Morrison308743
Beltrami305746
Lyon298735
Itasca281143
Becker279438
Isanti279440
Carlton276942
Steele26879
Pine263813
Freeborn237219
Todd230029
Nicollet222136
Brown212334
Mille Lacs211645
Le Sueur206515
Cass203823
Meeker197433
Waseca187515
Martin168226
Wabasha16712
Roseau164916
Hubbard146937
Redwood138527
Renville136139
Houston133213
Dodge13134
Chippewa130632
Cottonwood125118
Fillmore12084
Wadena118214
Rock108511
Sibley10757
Aitkin106633
Watonwan10548
Faribault103214
Kanabec96818
Pennington95915
Pipestone92522
Yellow Medicine92514
Murray8585
Jackson84510
Swift82617
Pope7355
Marshall70115
Stevens6968
Clearwater68114
Lac qui Parle65216
Lake62215
Wilkin6179
Koochiching57910
Lincoln4771
Big Stone4513
Unassigned43568
Grant4247
Norman4218
Mahnomen4077
Kittson36619
Red Lake3154
Traverse2433
Lake of the Woods1741
Cook1130

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 300884

Reported Deaths: 4197
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk44949440
Linn17563269
Scott15228161
Black Hawk13552228
Woodbury12896175
Johnson1191749
Dubuque11229148
Pottawattamie8863112
Dallas874169
Story857433
Webster464768
Cerro Gordo458766
Sioux452451
Clinton445461
Warren430637
Marshall424561
Buena Vista389029
Muscatine382275
Des Moines377340
Plymouth347967
Wapello336796
Jasper315955
Lee310828
Marion298852
Jones268949
Henry262130
Carroll252233
Bremer240048
Crawford227622
Boone214116
Washington213531
Benton207543
Mahaska189936
Jackson189631
Tama184757
Dickinson183225
Delaware171136
Kossuth169241
Clay165319
Wright161724
Fayette157022
Buchanan156920
Hamilton156828
Hardin153129
Harrison152961
Winneshiek150819
Clayton149848
Cedar149119
Butler145423
Page143115
Floyd137236
Cherokee137125
Mills135216
Lyon133132
Poweshiek131024
Hancock127924
Allamakee125927
Iowa122122
Calhoun12159
Jefferson118623
Grundy118522
Winnebago117229
Madison11639
Mitchell114634
Louisa113729
Cass111741
Chickasaw110111
Sac110115
Emmet109931
Appanoose108838
Union107922
Humboldt103919
Guthrie102124
Shelby101026
Franklin99818
Unassigned9370
Palo Alto8969
Keokuk84225
Montgomery82722
Howard81119
Monroe79918
Pocahontas77211
Clarke7717
Ida73530
Greene6837
Davis68221
Adair68120
Lucas6458
Osceola6349
Monona62316
Taylor5889
Worth5873
Fremont5005
Van Buren49112
Decatur4744
Ringgold4229
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Audubon4118
Adams2923
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