Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) had spent his afternoon doing what we want Members of Congress to be doing — holding a town hall meeting with his constituents — when he was assaulted by a liberal protestor who was caught on video dumping a drink on him. Media Matters campaign director Jordan Uhl gleefully tweeted the video, commenting, “Matt Gaetz got milkshaked in Pensacola.”
The video, posted by WKRG, Pensacola’s CBS affiliate, shows Gaetz leaving the town hall meeting in Pensacola, one of several he scheduled around his congressional district this weekend. Protestors can be heard yelling various chants, taunting Gaetz as he walks out, when a drink is lobbed at him, appearing to strike him in the back and shoulder.
WKRG reported that police “quickly detained and arrested” Amanda Leigh Kondrat’yev for the alleged assault. Kondrat’yev said she was there to protest the town hall.
According to WEAR, the local ABC affiliate, Kondrat’yev was one of the candidates who unsuccessfully ran against Gaetz in 2016 for the congressional seat. She has been charged with battery.
Gaetz has often attracted a higher degree of media attention than one might otherwise expect for a freshman Congressman, partly due to his enthusiastic and vocal support for President Donald Trump, and partly due to his penchant for controversial comments and social media posts.
In other words, while Gaetz has his ardent supporters, he also attracts a large number of critics.
Fine. Hooray for the First Amendment. That’s part of what being an elected official entails. Kondrat’yev and her fellow protestors had every right to protest outside Gaetz’s town hall and speak their mind.
But when Kondrat’yev decided to physically attack Gaetz, she wasn’t exercising her free speech rights. She was committing a crime. [Allegedly, allegedly, allegedly, etc. — this incident was caught on video and Kondrat’yev was identified and arrested immediately at the scene. She is, of course, presumed innocent in our criminal justice system.]
I’ve certainly had my criticisms of Gaetz over the years, and I’ve made no secret of my skepticism of Trump. But how pathetic and childish are these protestors when they can’t figure out how to express themselves in words and resort to throwing drinks and food like toddlers?
Uhl, the Media Matters campaign director, and the other liberals who cheered Kondrat’yev’s [alleged] attack, drawing the parallel to the milkshakes thrown on pro-Brexit politicians in the UK, are perhaps even worse. They are openly cheering for physical assaults on other people, just because they don’t agree with them on a political issue.
The Pensacola Congressman seemed unharmed, fortunately, other than some minor laundry issues for his shirt, but this idea that “milkshaking” is a harmless prank and an acceptable form of protest is absolutely wrong. Any time someone throws a physical object at someone, especially where a lot of people are gathered closely together, there’s a potential for injury or sparking an incitement in the crowd. There’s a long standing tradition for treating all unwanted physical contact as criminal behavior, for good reason.
James Gagliano, a CNN law enforcement analyst, tweeted that he was “no Matt Gaetz fan” but condemned the “utterly shameful and disgusting” assault and those who were celebrating it, expressing his worries that this was an escalation that could lead to violence.
Here’s where we are. I’m no Matt Gaetz fan, but THIS is celebrated? The folks who preach *tolerance* & *peace* can tend to be most INTOLERANT & VIOLENT.
We’re careening wildly towards a confrontation that will rip this country asunder. Want this?
Utterly shameful & disgusting. https://t.co/I9MrHgUKo9
— James A. Gagliano (@JamesAGagliano) June 1, 2019
As Kondrat’yev contemplates spending thousands of dollars on legal fees and court costs, plus whatever sentence the criminal justice system may impose, she should ask herself what she actually achieved today.
Matt Gaetz is not going to stop supporting Trump, resign from office, change his vote on any bill, or switch his position on any issue whatsoever. Her little stunt accomplished absolutely nothing, except to create potential challenges for her own future. “Assaulted a Congressman” isn’t the kind of resume line most employers crave.
Gaetz seemed in good spirits about the whole kerfuffle, tweeting his thanks to local law enforcement who “keep everyone safe at our events,” and quipping that “[c]learly it takes more than a drink to slow down our great team.”
Clearly it takes more than a drink to slow down our great team.
We are always thankful to the brave law enforcement officials who keep everyone safe at our events. https://t.co/njWuBquiRs
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) June 1, 2019
UPDATE: The Pensacola News Journal confirmed that Kondrat’yev was one of Gaetz’s congressional opponents in the 2016 race, and further reports that she has been released from jail on a $1,000 bond. Kondrat’yev is also one of four plaintiffs suing the city of Pensacola to force the removal of a cross from Bayview Park.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.