The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Where are the babies, Mitch?’: McConnell pursued from restaurant by angry crowd

A group of anti-ICE protesters confronted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as he was leaving a restaurant in Louisville on July 7. (Video: Andrew Massie)

A group of Democratic Socialists and other angry protesters pursued Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) through a restaurant parking lot on Saturday, berating him with a mixture of immigration rhetoric and personal insults — and at one point an apparent threat to visit his home.

The Louisville encounter was the second time in two weeks that McConnell's private life has been disrupted by a spontaneous protest — and it was the latest in a weeks-long series of confrontations between powerful Republicans and those eager to shame them on camera, wherever they are found.

“If the Leader comments on being called a fascist and a supporter of ICE by a small handful of extremist protesters then I will let you know,” McConnell’s spokesman, David Popp, wrote to The Washington Post after the incident.

McConnell — who supports the Trump administration’s detention of families who illegally cross the border but opposed the president's short-lived policy of separating parents from their children — was having lunch Saturday at Bristol Bar & Grille, in his hometown.

As it happened, hundreds of people were protesting outside Louisville’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office, just a few miles from the restaurant. Among them were leaders of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, whose national fame has been growing since one of its members upset the Democratic incumbent in a New York congressional primary last month.

Bookstore owner defends calling police on woman who told Steve Bannon he was ‘a piece of trash’

So when someone spotted McConnell at the restaurant and asked for help confronting him, the socialist group spread the word on social media.

And within a few minutes — just as happened in recent weeks with Trump's homeland security secretary, his press secretary, his Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao (who is also Trump's transportation secretary) in a separate incident — a scene was made outside the Bristol Bar & Grille.

At least half a dozen people, several with cameras, were waiting in front of the restaurant when McConnell walked out, with his checkered shirt tucked into his jeans and two dining companions at his side.

“Vote you out, vote you out!” the crowd began to chant.

“Where are the children?” one of them asked, not for the last time.

The three men didn't stop or slow, or even look at the crowd, though someone shouted “Go home!”

As McConnell's party turned a corner into the parking lot, a woman with an ankle-length dress and a backpack tried to block their path. She walked a step ahead of the Senate’s top Republican, and the rest of the crowd followed close behind, still chanting and shouting.

“Where are the babies, Mitch?”

“Turtle head!”

The Democratic Socialists of Louisville told The Washington Post that three members were in the crowd, but said the group had nothing to do with the man who called the majority leader “turtle head” — and a few moments later shouted: “We know where you live, too, Mitch! We know where you live! Yeah! We know where you live, Mitch!”

“This person is not a DSA member, nor do we know who he is or what he meant by that statement,” the chapter wrote in an email. “We believe it is a reference to peacefully protesting in front of McConnell’s house, which is a regular occurrence in Louisville. However, we cannot speak more to the comment because it did not come from our organization or our members.”

In any event, McConnell said nothing in reply; he simply climbed into the back seat of an SUV with a “Team Mitch” sticker on the window. The two other men (one of them a top state Republican, according to the Courier-Journal) got into the front, and the protesters could only shout at them as the engine fired up.

“Abolish ICE, abolish ICE!” they chanted.

“No justice, no peace!”

“No comfort for fascists!” said the man who called McConnell a “turtle head.”

“We did good, fellow citizens,” a man told the rest of the group as the Highlander backed out of its parking space.

And true enough, video of the impromptu protest would be seen by hundreds of thousands of people, make national news and be praised by those on the left who think Trump’s allies deserve no peaceful meals while hundreds of migrant children are still being held from their parents.

But not everyone thought so.

As McConnell’s SUV left the parking lot, one of the videographers turned around to see a red convertible idling behind them, its driver glaring.

“Let them live their lives,” the man said as he pulled up beside the group. “It’s none of your f---ing business.”

A few of the protesters stopped chanting after the departed majority leader and turned on this driver who would dare confront the confronters.

“What a potty mouth!” a woman behind a camera jeered. “Keep on talking, fella, you’re going to be a star.”

Like McConnell, the man in the convertible made no reply. He soon left the parking lot, too, accompanied by indistinguishable angry screams.

This story has been updated with comment from the Democratic Socialists of America.

More reading:

The owner of the Red Hen explains why she asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave

Why a teacher carried her 2-year-old up to Scott Pruitt’s restaurant table and asked him to resign