Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters faces possible retribution for controversial comments.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has recently landed in hot water after exhorting protestors in Minnesota to “get more confrontational.” A defense attorney even stated that her comments were worthy of a mistrial, which the judge dismissed.
Rep. Waters, 82, made the comment Monday evening as the jury overseeing the Derek Chauvin trial began deliberations. “We are looking for a guilty verdict,” Waters told the press and crowd. “If we don’t, we cannot go away.”
A reporter at the scene asked Waters what she thought protestors should do if Chauvin is not convicted of murder.
“We’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active,” she responded. “We’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”
A central component of a fair trial is the maintenance of an unbiased jury, according to the Sixth Amendment’s due process clause. In court, Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson responded to Rep. Waters’ comments by telling Judge Peter Cahill, “We have US representatives threatening acts of violence in relation to this specific case. It’s mind-boggling to me, judge.”
These recent comments from Waters stirred the pot so much that the defense thought they could form a reasonable argument claiming Water’s statement had skewed the opinion of the jurors. Also, given that the jury was not yet sequestered, one may assume these jurors had seen Waters’ comments and the firestorm surrounding them.
“Well, I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” Judge Cahill replied.
Judge Cahill ultimately denied the appeal as he did not think Rep. Waters’ comments prejudiced the jury.
Several Republican lawmakers have called for Waters’ expulsion in light of her recent comments.
“We’ve heard this type of violent rhetoric from Waters before, and the United States Congress must clearly and without reservation reprimand this behavior before more people get hurt,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is currently leading the charge against Waters.
In defense of Waters’ comments, many of her supporters are appealing to the ordinary nature of her statement.
“This statement is nearly identical to countless calls by members and supporters of Black Lives Matters to vigorously protest a verdict of ‘not guilty’ in the Chauvin trial. It is obviously protected speech under the First Amendment,” Mark Joseph Stern wrote for Slate.com.
Rep. Waters’ career has been marked by continual efforts for social justice and activism. In 2010, Waters was the recipient of the Social Justice and Equality Award by the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms for her pursuit of equality.
A minister who has worked with Waters in the past, Rev. Jewett Walker, stated, “What she said is nothing new. She has always said the same kind of thing. She has always stood up for the downtrodden. There are people who do not like that.”
Indeed, this is not the first time Waters has made similar statements. In 2018, the congresswoman found herself in the midst of controversy for encouraging harassment against members of former President Donald Trump’s Cabinet members.
“If you see anybody from that 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 they’re not welcome,” Waters told the crowd.
In response, President Trump began claiming Rep. Waters had a “low IQ” and continually ridiculed her while staging rallies.
“[Waters] has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!” the former president tweeted.
The argumentation we are currently seeing from Waters’ supporters is similar to the defense that members of the GOP used to claim that former President Trump’s comments prior to the storming of Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 were not criminally inciting.
“During Trump’s second impeachment trial, Republicans mobilized behind his defense lawyer’s claim that his calls on his angry crowd to ‘fight like Hell’ before they stormed Capitol Hill were metaphorical and ‘ordinary political rhetoric,’” an analysis from CNN stated. “They’re not giving Waters, a veteran of the civil rights movement and its marches and protests, similar benefit of the doubt.”
It is unclear whether or not the Congresswoman will face formal punishment for her comments, though it is unlikely she will as her party holds the majority in the House.