By Jen Kirby
They were calling out the Trump administration’s practice of separating families at the border.
Protesters chanting “shame, shame” surrounded Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as she dined at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, DC, to call out the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the southern border.
The protesters, members of Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America, confronted Nielsen with cries such as “end family separation” and “kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace.”
A clip of the protest at MXDC Cocina Mexicana in Washington, DC, is below:
The video is dark, but it’s possible to see Nielsen at a table as the protesters chant and give short speeches around her. The Democratic Socialists group indicated they intended to disrupt her dinner.
“Secretary Nielsen and everyone else who has carried out these brutal and cold-blooded orders to rip apart families should never be allowed to eat and drink in public again,” Margaret McLaughlin, a member of the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America Steering Committee, said in a statement. “These barbarous acts must end and those at the helm must be held accountable. While Secretary Nielsen’s dinner may have been ruined, it is nothing compared to the horrors she has inflicted on innocent families.”
According to the group, police were later called to the restaurant, but none of the protesters were arrested.
Nielsen has become the face of the Trump administration’s practice of separating families to prosecute all adults who enter the US illegally. She defended the practice during a heated press briefing on Monday, falsely blaming Congress for the crisis. A growing number of Democrats, including several senators, are now calling for her resignation.
A Twitter user posted a video that reportedly showed Nielsen leaving the restaurant:
DHS Secretary Nielsen just got driven out of a Mexican restaurant here on 14th Street by activists. DSA, I believe. pic.twitter.com/lTKutryXBO
— Osita Nwanevu (@OsitaNwanevu) June 20, 2018
Department of Homeland Security press secretary Tyler Q. Houlton offered a different spin on the encounter, saying in a statement posted on Twitter that “while having a work dinner, the Secretary and her staff heard from a small group of protesters who share her concern with our current immigration laws that have created a crisis on our southern border.”
.@SecNielsen encourages all – including this group – who want to see an immigration system that works, contributes to our economy, protects our security, & reflects our values reach out to Members & seek their support to close immigration loopholes that made our system a mess.
— Tyler Q. Houlton (@SpoxDHS) June 20, 2018
The statement added that Nielsen “encourages all — including this group” to reach out to members of Congress to “close immigration loopholes that made our system a mess.”
The protesters blasted Nielsen for the Trump administration’s policy of separating children and families at the border. At one point, one of the protesters played the audio of a sobbing child who had been torn from her parents as Nielsen dined. “How does that make you feel?” someone shouted.
The protesters also chanted “no borders, no walls, sanctuary for all” and “abolish ICE,” which has become a progressive rallying cry against what some of the left see as the federal government’s draconian immigration enforcement and deportations — that exist with or without Trump.
Most national Democratic politicians don’t or haven’t come out in support of such radical steps, though as Vox’s Dara Lind has written, it could very well become a question that Democrats looking to 2020 may have to answer to satisfy the base.