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Exclusive: In an interview with theGrio, California US Rep. Maxine Waters accuses Republicans of distorting her words, adding “I’m not going to be bullied by them.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters is pushing back against Republicans and conservative media who have called her out over remarks she made on Saturday during a Black Lives Matter protest in Minnesota.
Rep. Waters (D-Calif.) told theGrio that she traveled to Brooklyn Center — where former police officer Kim Potter fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright — because she “could not rest” after seeing yet another unarmed Black man killed by law enforcement and, in the case of Wright, just a few miles away from the Derek Chauvin trial in the murder of George Floyd.
At Saturday evening’s protest, Waters addressed the press and spoke out in support of the community and protesters. By Sunday, the congresswoman’s remarks, which lasted several minutes, had become a headline on conservative media and Republicans zeroed in on Waters’ use of the word “confrontational” when encouraging protesters to continue calls for justice in the countless police-involved killings of Black Americans.
“We’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business,” Waters said on Saturday, in which she elaborated more than what news outlets such as Fox News and the New York Post had initially reported.
Breakout stars in the Republican Party like far-right freshmen Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), among others, accused Waters of inciting violence, with Taylor Greene even vowing to introduce a House resolution to expel Waters. In a statement, Taylor Greene accused the 82-year-old chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee in Congress of inciting “Black Lives Matter domestic terrorists to fire gunshots at National Guardsmen in Minnesota.”
In an exclusive interview with theGrio, Waters dismissed suggestions that she was encouraging violence. “I am nonviolent,” she said. The congresswoman said attempts to characterize her words and suggest otherwise is nothing more than a political tactic by the GOP.
“Republicans will jump on any word, any line and try to make it fit their message and their cause for denouncing us and denying us, basically calling us violent … any time they see an opportunity to seize on a word, so they do it and they send a message to all of the white supremacists, the KKK, the Oath Keepers, the [Proud] Boys and all of that, how this is a time for [Republicans] to raise money on [Democrats] backs,” Waters added.
“This is a time for [Republicans] to keep telling our constituents that [Democrats] are the enemy and they do that time and time again,” Waters said of what she described as a Republican strategy. “But that does not deter me from speaking truth to power. I am not intimidated. I am not afraid, and I do what needs to be done.”
Further clarifying her comments on being “confrontational,” the California congresswoman said “I talk about confronting the justice system, confronting the policing that’s going on, I’m talking about speaking up. I’m talking about legislation. I’m talking about elected officials doing what needs to be done to control their budgets and to pass legislation.”
She continued, “I am not worried that they’re going to continue to distort what I say. This is who they are and this is how they act. And I’m not going to be bullied by them.”
When asked if she’s worried about potential violence on American streets if former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is found not guilty in the death of Floyd, Waters said she is more concerned about the “disappointment and hopelessness” such a verdict would have on the Minneapolis community and Black communities across the country.
“I’m worried about the disappointment of particularly the young people and young Black males who are more and more frightened of the police, afraid to drive their cars when they see police coming and thinking that their lives will be in danger,” said Waters. “I’m afraid that it further helps to cement the feeling that somehow justice just does not work for us in America. And so whatever that causes, it will cause … I don’t know what will happen, but I know that disappointment and hopelessness is not a good thing.”
If Chauvin is found guilty, however, Waters said it would signal activists and politicians calling for police reform are “making some progress and that everything that we have done, including the protests, has led us to a point where we’re being taken seriously and we’re being treated fairly.”
Congresswoman Waters and other members of the U.S. House have already passed a police reform bill named in honor of Floyd. However, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act continues to be stalled in the U.S. Senate where Republicans and moderate Democrats threaten its passage, given a less-than-willing appetite to support the legislation’s sweeping reform and, in the case of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, an unwillingness to eliminating the filibuster, which would give a slim-majority for Democrats the votes they need to pass such legislation.
Waters said she is not hopeful that Republicans will come around on the issue: “I wish I could be more optimistic … but the Senate will probably not support the bill that we have sent and so I’m worried that if it does get out, it’s going to be watered down.”
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