Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, released the following statement today:
“I must once again reiterate that non-violent and peaceful protest is a right we are all entitled to under the Constitution. This is even true for a group as repugnant as the Oath Keepers, an antigovernment militia known for its intimidation tactics and for protesting in military-style clothing while carrying assault weapons. Although I was very concerned about their planned protest at my office because of the group’s reputation for being armed, I honored their right to do so anyway. This is precisely why I implored the community through a widely distributed written statement to not engage the Oath Keepers and to refrain from staging a counter-protest in response to their militant tactics and racist rhetoric.
“Many people from within the community heeded my advice and steered clear of the event, but there were groups of individuals who felt compelled to participate and show their support for me despite my request. While most of those counter-protesters remained peaceful, I have learned that there were others in attendance who were not necessarily from the 43rd District, but who nevertheless participated as counter-protesters not so much in support of me, but to seek press attention in furtherance of their own agendas. Unfortunately, this group’s actions with respect to the American flag, and their passing physical contact with other protestors, has created fodder for partisan media outlets to exploit and overshadowed the majority of counter-protesters who engaged in peaceful demonstrations.
“While I do not agree with torching the flag as a form of protest, I understand the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to this form of free expression. However, physical violence, or even the perceived threat of violence, is not an acceptable way to protest injustice today and can never be tolerated.
“I am thankful to those who did not take the Oath Keepers’ bait and further the group’s efforts to inflame, divide, and disrupt our community. I am also appreciative of those from within the community who remained peaceful.
“I continue to support peaceful protest and disavow all forms of violence against others who may not share our community’s values. Furthermore, I do not take a backseat to anyone on patriotism and my respect for the Constitution. As a member of Congress, I will always honor and respect the law and encourage everyone to do the same.”