A group of hecklers angrily confronted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi during a campaign stop for a congressional hopeful in South Florida, cursing at her and calling her a communist in a moment that was captured on video.
It was yet another incident that stoked fears that the country’s bitter and emotional political environment is at risk of leading to violence.
The video shows a small group of protesters cursing at Pelosi (D-Calif.), and calling her a communist in English and Spanish, as she enters an event Wednesday in Coral Gables, Fla., to campaign for Democrat Donna Shalala, who is running to fill the seat vacated by retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) in Miami.
“You don’t belong here,” one says, telling her to get out in Spanish: “Afuera!”
After Pelosi calmly walks by them and enters the building, people bang on the door.
“Open up! It’s the Proud Boys in here,” one says, referencing the far-right group that was implicated in a street brawl in New York last weekend.
“Socialism sucks,” others chant.
Photographs taken of the protest around the event, which appears to have been organized by Nelson Diaz, the chairman of the Republican Party in Miami-Dade County, according to emails posted online by radio host Grant Stern, show some protesters with Proud Boys gear.
“I don’t agree with Nancy Pelosi’s agenda, but this is absolutely the wrong way to express those disagreements,” Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, who was wounded in a shooting at a congressional baseball team practice in 2017, wrote on Twitter. “If you want to stop her policies, don’t threaten her, VOTE! That’s how we settle our differences.”
In a statement, Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill said President Trump and Republicans were to blame for stoking the flames of “incivility, intolerance and aggression.”
“It is deeply sad but unsurprising that we now see that ugliness rearing its head,” he said. “It is stunning that Republicans have the gall to call courageous survivors of sexual assault a ‘mob’, at the same time they incite and condone violent actions like this. Republicans must condemn this vile and dangerous conduct, and stop the reckless and dangerous rhetoric that encourages it.”
According to the right-wing blog Big League Politics, the video was shot by a man who has been previously identified in reports as the leader of the Miami chapter of the Proud Boys.
In an email, Diaz said that he was not a member nor a supporter of the group.
“Up until a few days ago, I had never heard of them,” he said.
The video did not appear to have traveled widely on YouTube, but it was seized on by fringe right-wing sites as a sign of the retribution Democrats face in the wake of other high-profile incidents in which Republicans have been confronted by protesters in public places such as restaurants.
“Nancy Pelosi was heckled at a Miami Restaurant by Trump Supporting Cuban Americans,” reported one.
“Nancy Pelosi shouted out of a restaurant — by Cuban Americans in Miami,” wrote another.
“RUN, NANCY, RUN!! PELOSI SHOUTED OUT OF RESTAURANT IN MIAMI!” wrote another.
The protest had been organized because Shalala had been scheduled to appear with Rep. Barbara Lee, a progressive Democrat who represents a liberal district in Northern California.
Lee had spoken fondly of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro after his death, telling a newspaper reporter that “we need to stop and pause and mourn his loss” and calling it “very sad for the Cuban people,” according to the Miami Herald. The remark did not sit well with some in Miami’s conservative community of Cuban expatriates.
Lee’s planned visit was later canceled but was seen as a significant political gaffe for Shalala.
“There’s a simple rule in running for Congress in Miami: Don’t campaign with someone who praised Fidel Castro,” Politico’s Marc Caputo wrote. “But Donna Shalala didn’t figure it out until it was too late.”
The protests swelled to at least 40 people, who “pounded on every door they could find and clamored insults in both Spanish and English like ‘Nasty Pelosi’ and ‘brujas,’ ” the Spanish word for “witches,” according to the Miami Herald.
Police officers had locked the building for safety reasons, the Herald reported.
The Proud Boys, a group of self-proclaimed “Western chauvinists” who are described as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, have been connected to recent violence in Oregon and New York, where police are seeking to arrest nine people affiliated with the group after a street fight with anti-fascist protesters.
The group declined to comment.