Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) urged her supporters to stay away from a planned protest outside of her Los Angeles office building, warning that the “anti-government militia” that was supposed to demonstrate on Thursday was known for “a history of violent and provocative behavior.”
But it was not the planned protesters — a group known as the Oath Keepers — who “inflame[d] racial tensions and create[d] an explosive conflict,” as Rep. Waters predicted. It was the counterprotesters, sympathetically referred to as “activists, union workers, and church leaders,” who ripped an American flag from a passing truck and torched it while chanting, “Black power!” and, “F*** the government, America was never great!”
The Oath Keepers issued a call-to-action on social media on Tuesday, urging their followers to “protest terrorist inciter Maxine Waters” by participating in “ongoing” demonstrations that were supposed to begin Thursday afternoon. The group claimed to stand against terrorism, for freedom of speech, and in support of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) in a tweet publicizing their plans:
Oath Keepers CALL to ACTION: Protest Terrorist Inciter Maxine Waters, Thursday,, July 19. OATH KEEPERS, STAND AGAINST TERRORISM, STAND FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND ASSOCIATION, IN SUPPORT OF ICE/BORDER PATROL AS THEY ENFORCE CONSTITUTIONAL IMMIGRATION LAWS. https://t.co/0KCTcEZuyi pic.twitter.com/o9YsJX75pq
— Oath Keepers (@Oathkeepers) July 17, 2018
Waters released a statement of her own in advance of the rally outside her office, describing the Oath Keepers as a dangerous group who like to “protest in military-style clothing while carrying various assault weapons,” and asking her supporters to stay away. She published her sober warning on Twitter, writing:
Please read my statement on the Oath Keepers’ planned protest at my district office tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/1ZALWLaZJS
— Maxine Waters (@RepMaxineWaters) July 19, 2018
But Waters’ description of the group who planned to protest her wasn’t exactly accurate. While the Oath Keepers are invariably described as a “far-right anti-government group,” in practice, the organization — which is comprised mostly of military veterans, according to the group’s website — stands for civil disobedience in opposition to unconstitutional laws, a philosophy not so far removed from the teachings of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Even the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center’s Heidi Beirich had to concede that, although they are frequently armed, “We haven’t seen violence break out between Oath Keepers and counterprotesters.”
It is not surprising, then, that the protest organizers decided to cancel the event when it became clear that an unruly mob had hijacked their stage. Waters’ supporters lined the streets near the intersection of 102nd Street and Broadway long after police announced the Oath Keepers weren’t going to show up as planned.
Cloudy with a chance of riots
The liberal Los Angeles Times described the counterprotesters’ mood as “festive, although it was punctuated with moments of tension.” Indeed, the counterprotesters, who claimed to be there to shun racism and violence, began chanting “black power” before they forcibly confiscated a flag from a passing pickup truck and set it ablaze.
Anticipating that the Oath Keepers would use violence and intimidation, the crowd decided to use force themselves — even when the opposition group failed to show.
“We wanted to be here because we know that they were coming here to intimidate and to bully,” Pastor Cue Jnmarie, from a nearby church, said.
Liberal welcoming committee
Although Waters urged her supporters to stay away from the planned protest, she bears some responsibility for its destructive outcome. Last month, she instructed a small group of supporters on what to do if they encountered Trump officials out in public, saying: “If you see anybody from that [Trump] 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 that they are not welcome, anymore, anywhere.”
The 50 or so counterprotesters who showed up to defend “Auntie Maxine’s” honor were just following orders from the congresswoman when they vandalized property and inflamed racial tensions.
Through violence and racial intimidation, Waters’ supporters successfully censored a peaceful protest. But don’t expect to hear this from the mainstream press.