In a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed on Thursday, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., vigorously defended her earlier call for protesters to “get more confrontational” if former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin hadn’t been convicted of killing George Floyd.
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Waters, in her Thursday Op-Ed, described how she attended a peaceful rally before the verdict and was asked: “What do we do if we don’t get a guilty verdict? What should protesters do?”
She responded: “We got to stay on the street. And we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational.”
On Tuesday, Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin, who is white, is to be sentenced on June 16 for killing Floyd with a prolonged hold that involved putting a knee on the Black man’s neck. Because of the racial component to the case, longstanding claims of excessive police force against people of color, and a viral video of the extended encounter, the Floyd episode fueled a summer of protests around the world.
Waters, a civil rights activist, drew parallels between the protests before the Chauvin verdict and the Rodney King riots. “I have been an activist participating in the civil rights movement and I have dealt with the issue of police abuse for many decades.”
Waters said the Rodney King riots represented a rebellion, and although it wasn’t acceptable, it was understandable. She wrote: “There were mothers who took this as an opportunity to take some milk, to take some bread, to take some shoes. Maybe they shouldn’t have done it, but the atmosphere was such that they did it,” she told a local radio station.
“One lady said her children didn’t have any shoes. She just saw those shoes there, a chance for all of her children to have new shoes… I might have gone in and taken them for her myself,” according to the Daily Caller.
But Waters, writing for the Los Angeles Times, restated that she was non-violent and blamed opposition groups for twisting her words. “Now, because of who I am, the right wing and members of Congress who subscribe to the views of groups like QAnon, the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and the KKK have targeted me.”
Waters’ encouragement of more confrontational protests drew immediate condemnation from many quarters, and Republican lawmakers even sought, unsuccessfully, to have her censured.
Chauvin’s lawyer went so far as to ask the judge in the case, Peter Cahill, to dseclare a mistial, alleging she’d prejudiced the trial. Though Cahill did not grant a mistrial, he was critical of Waters’ comments.
“I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” Cahill said as arguments in the case concluded and the jury began deliberations.
Some legal experts and observers now argue that Cahill was right, and that such comments may have swayed jurors eager to avoid having their verdict trigger violent protest.
“I’ve done 250 appeals over a 50-year career,” legal scholar Alan Dershowitz said Thursday on “Greg Kelly Reports.” “I don’t think I’ve ever remembered [a] judge giving me an appellate issue, telling me you have an appellate issue.”
Such actions simply proved that the jury should have been sequestered from “day one,” Dershowitz said. Jurors were only sequestered after deliberations began.
“Every mayor in the city, every police chief, the president of the United States, all understood that if there was a verdict less than murder in this case … it would mean violence in the streets,” Dershowitz said. “And if every mayor and every police chief and the president knew it, how could the jurors not know it? They were not sequestered.”