House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rallied to the defense of Rep. Maxine Waters on Monday to say the fellow California Democrat should not apologize for urging activists to “get more confrontational” with police if former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is acquitted of murder in the death of George Floyd.
“No, she doesn’t,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters when asked if Ms. Waters should apologize.
The speaker said she was “absolutely not” worried that Ms. Waters’ rhetoric would incite violence.
Ms. Waters’ remarks Saturday at a protest in Minnesota, including telling activists to “show that we mean business” when they take to the streets, drew widespread criticism from Republicans, including a call for her expulsion from Congress.
Ms. Waters’ call to action heightened tensions surrounding the trial of Mr. Chauvin as the case went to the jury Monday.
Mr. Chauvin’s defense lawyer, Eric Nelson, cited Ms. Waters’ words in asking the judge to declare a mistrial, saying it amounted to a threat against the jurors.
Judge Peter Cahill rejected the request for a mistrial but admonished Ms. Waters.
“I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law,” Judge Cahill said. “Their failure to do so is abhorrent.”
He added that Ms. Waters’ remarks may be “something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
Minneapolis and cities across the U.S. are bracing for a new round of racial justice riots when the jury delivers the verdict.
The Minnesota National Guard is stationed throughout Minneapolis, and two guardsmen were injured in a drive-by shooting on Sunday.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, earlier Monday demanded that Mrs. Pelosi take action over Ms. Waters’ “dangerous rhetoric.”
“Maxine Waters is inciting violence in Minneapolis — just as she has incited it in the past,” Mr. McCarthy tweeted. “If Speaker Pelosi doesn’t act against this dangerous rhetoric, I will bring action this week.”
It was not clear what action Mr. McCarthy could take. His office did not respond to a request for clarification.
Ms. Waters told the Grio, a Black news site, that Republicans distorted her comments.
“I’m not going to be bullied by them,” she said. “I am nonviolent. I talk about confronting the justice system, confronting the policing that’s going on, I’m talking about speaking up. I’m talking about legislation. I’m talking about elected officials doing what needs to be done to control their budgets and to pass legislation.”
Mrs. Pelosi sided with Waters.
“No, Maxine talked about a confrontation in the manner of the Civil Rights movement,” Mrs. Pelosi said, apparently a reference to the peaceful protests espoused by Martin Luther King Jr. “I myself think we should take our lead from the George Floyd family. They’ve handled this with great dignity, and no ambiguity or lack of — misinterpretation by the other side. No, I don’t think she should apologize.”
A video on Unicorn Riot, a left-leaning online news outlet, showed Ms. Waters issuing her call to action when talking to reporters at a rally: “We’ve got to stay on the street, and we’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Republican, said she will introduce a resolution to expel Ms. Waters from Congress.
“After traveling across state lines to incite riots, her orders recorded on video last night at the Brooklyn Center, directly led to more violence and a drive-by shooting on National Guardsmen in Minnesota early this morning,” Ms. Greene tweeted Sunday.
She said Ms. Waters’ actions in Minnesota warranted expulsion from Congress because it was part of a pattern of inciting violence, which includes Ms. Waters in 2018 calling on people to harass and show “zero tolerance” for members of the Trump administration when they venture out in public.
Ms. Greene’s resolution is unlikely to pass in the Democratic-led chamber. She would need roughly six Democrats to cross the aisle if all Republicans back the resolution.
Victor Morton contributed to this report.
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