Rightwing Republican congressman Clay Higgins of Louisiana — known around these parts as the ‘WHAR BOXES?’ guy, or simply WHAR BOXES — took it upon himself to play bouncer Wednesday when a young protester got a little too mouthy during a press conference being held by prominent House Wingnut Caucus members including Higgins, Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), Paul Gosar DDS (R-Arizona) and others. (Higgins later tweeted that the presser was about the very real threat to US sovereignty posed by the World Health Organization, which is part of the UN One-World Communist Plot, which seems like indispensable context.)
The protester, law student and organizer/troublemaker Jake Burdett, 25, told the Daily Beast he’d actually been in DC for a Medicare for All rally led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), but when that was over, he saw the Freedom Caulkers setting up and decided to be a free speech pest, which is his right as an American citizen.
Spotting Gosar and Boebert, he decided to stick around. “I figured I’d ask them some tough questions,” he said. “Bird-dog them, whatever you want to call it.”
And indeed, as Burdett’s videos show, he was definitely heckling the rightwing dipshits, which may happen when politicians hold a “press conference” in public.
In the first video, Burdett shouts questions while Gosar is speaking, asking about his appearance at a confab held by neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes, and about that embarrassing campaign ad made by Gosar’s own siblings, urging people not to vote for him. As Freedom Cockups try to tell Burdett to leave, Higgins steps in to promise he’ll answer all Burdett’s questions later (about Gosar, sure!) if the young man will just stop recording and be quiet. Higgins does get right up in Burdett’s face to deliver that offer of help.
In the first video, Higgins fairly calmly introduces himself and says, “All I’m asking you to do is just peacefully stand by with your camera and I promise you — look at me — I’ll come talk to you straight up and answer all your questions. Fair enough?”
And yes, Burdett wanted to know how on earth Higgins would be in a position to know anything about Gosar’s very public embarrassment.
But Burdett hadda go and persist. While Boebert spoke, he asked her about her divorce, and asked her whether it was at all related to that time in 2017 when her restaurant customers got diarrhea from tainted pork sliders. Sure, it was a rude, nonsensical, pesky question. And goddamn it, it was also perfectly legal because this is America and we can ask rude stupid questions of our elected leaders in public, Crom bless our First Amendment!
And because we are indeed a nation of laws, our elected leaders are not allowed to assault us just for being annoying, although that’s what Higgins did. Here’s video from another angle, showing Higgins grabbing Burdett to eject him (nearly knocking over another person in the audience) and manhandling Burdett away from the speakers all the way to the sidewalk.
Burdett wasn’t harmed or arrested; he told the Daily Beast that he was questioned for about a half hour by Capitol Police and told he could go. But he was certainly none too happy that the Capitol Cops didn’t seem very interested in hearing him tell them he’d been assaulted by a member of Congress.
“It’s one thing for anybody to do that,” he said of Higgins’ behavior. “But for a sitting U.S. congressperson to think that that’s OK—it just shows an extra level of entitlement, that they feel they’re untouchable and the law doesn’t apply to them.”
For his part, Higgins, a former sheriff who loves to act the Tough Guy, later took to Twitter to lie about the encounter, claiming that Burdett was “a 103M” (police code for “disturbance by a mental person,” never mind the bad English usage) and insisting in an attached video that Burdett (an “agitator activist”) was “very disruptive and threatening, in violation of the law.”
u201cActivist was a 103M. Threatening. He was escorted out and turned over to Capitol Police. Textbook.u201d
— Rep. Clay Higgins (@Rep. Clay Higgins)
Higgins gives himself credit in the video for having “successfully de-escalated the situation,” a phrase with which we’re certain the Inigo Montoya meme would take issue. He also claims that Burdett “aggressively disrupted” Boebert and “approached her in a threatening manner,” which just isn’t the case. He was rude and shouty, not threatening.
Say, is this a good place to mention that in 2007, Higgins, then in law enforcement, was accused of beating up an innocent bystander to an arrest, and then lying to Internal affairs to cover it up? The former cop also busted for helping with that alleged cover-up is now a congressional aide to Higgins. Higgins resigned before he could be punished for that incident.
Burdett told the Daily Beast that he’s now “evaluating my options” and that “if it looks like there is a strong case for assault and [there is] an attorney willing to take on the case, I am absolutely prepared to press charges.” On Twitter, when Burdett asked for any attorneys to tell him if they thought he had a case, civil rights attorney Andrew C. Laufer replied, “Yes, assault, battery, and a potential civil rights violation.”
Former US Attorney and current MSNBC legal commentator Joyce Vance was succinct: “Looks like an assault to me?”
[Daily Beast / Lafayette Daily Advertiser / Salon / Nola.com]
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