By Ray Richardson
MINNEAPOLIS — U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters fired back at Republicans criticizing her “confrontational” comments about the George Floyd murder trial, claiming she is “non-violent” and won’t be “bullied” by her political adversaries.
“Republicans will jump on any word, any line and try to make it fit their message and their cause,” Waters said April 19 in an exclusive interview with The Grio.com. “This is a time for [Republicans] to keep telling our constituents that Democrats are the enemy. But that does not deter me from speaking truth to power. I am not intimidated. I am not afraid. I do what needs to be done.”
Waters, 82, was criticized for her controversial remarks about the trial of former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin April 17 while attending a protest rally in Brooklyn Center, Minn., for Duante Wright, an unarmed 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot on April 11 by a Brooklyn Center police officer during a traffic stop.
Kim Potter, the officer involved in the shooting, resigned from the force two days later, and has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.
The scene of Wright’s death is about 10 miles from downtown Minneapolis, where Chauvin is being tried for Floyd’s murder. Wright’s death added more tension to an area already on edge awaiting the outcome of the Chauvin trial. The jury ended its first day of deliberations April 19.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after cell phone videos showed him kneeling on Floyd’s neck on May 25, 2020 for more than nine minutes while Floyd lay on the ground in handcuffs.
Waters, the Los Angeles Democrat with a reputation for speaking her mind, appeared to make a reference to the three charges when she used the word “guilty” three times while talking with reporters April 17 at the rally.
“I hope we get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty,” Waters told reporters. “If we don’t, we can’t go away. We have to stay on the streets and get more confrontational.”
Waters insisted she wasn’t trying to incite a violent response if Chauvin is acquitted. She clarified the comments in her interview with The Grio.com.
“I talk about confronting the justice system, confronting the policing that’s going on,” Waters told The Grio.com. “I’m talking about speaking up. I’m talking about legislation and elected officials doing what needs to be done to control their budgets and pass legislation.”
Led by U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), several Republican leaders lashed out at Waters for “inciting violence” if Chauvin is acquitted.
McCarthy introduced a measure Monday in the House to censure Waters, who also drew criticism from Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia) and Laura Boebert (Colorado). Greene is threatening to introduce legislation to have Waters expelled from her congressional seat.
When House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was asked April 19 by reporters if Waters should apologize for her comments at the rally, Pelosi said no.
Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson filed a motion April 19 for a mistrial based on Waters’ comments, but Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill denied the motion. Cahill, however, expressed strong displeasure with Waters’ comments and gave a warning to elected officials.
“I’m aware of Congresswoman Waters talking specifically about this trial,” Cahill said. “I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case. If they want to give an opinion, they should do so in a manner that’s respectful and in a manner that’s consistent with their oath in the Constitution … to respect the co-equal branch of government. Their failure to do so is abhorent.”
Cahill was so disturbed by Waters’ comments that he told Nelson the comments might be permissible for the defense to use in an appeal if Chauvin is convicted.
Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for the The Wave Newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.