Under fire for comments interpreted as encouraging violence, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) appeared on MSNBC Monday night to clarify that she did not call for physical harm or attacks on Trump officials amid widespread backlash to the President’s zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration.
“I did not call for harm for anybody, the President lied again,” Waters told Chris Hayes on MSNBC. “As a matter of fact I believe in peaceful protest.”
She added: “I believe that protest is at the centerpiece of our democracy. I believe that the constitution guarantees us freedom of speech. And I think that protest is civil. I don’t know why the President chose to stretch that out and try to imply that I was causing harm. As a matter of fact the President calls for more violence than anybody else.”
Waters has faced a wave of criticism, including from President Trump, since urging her supporters to confront Trump staffers in public for the administration’s zero-tolerance policy that has led to over 2,300 migrant children being separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up,” Waters told a crowd in California over the weekend. “If you see anybody from that 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 they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
Waters’ comments follow two incidents of Trump officials facing public backlash. Last week Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was confronted while she ate at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C., and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant.
President Trump tweeted in response to Waters’ comments on Monday accusing her of calling for harm to his supporters.
In the wake of fierce criticism over the border crisis, the President issued an executive order that would house parents and children caught crossing the U.S. border together, rather than apart. About 500 children have been reunited with their parents since May.