Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was hit with an unidentified beverage as he was exiting a town hall in Pensacola on Saturday.
Amanda Leigh Kondrat’yev, 35, was arrested and charged with battery for allegedly throwing the drink at the congressman. She was released on bond Sunday.
The fracas occurred outside Brew Ha Ha restaurant, where Gaetz was completing a stop on his “Won’t Back Down” town hall series. As he headed to his vehicle, a police officer saw a clear plastic cup containing red liquid fly through the air from a crowd of protesters and strike the congressman on the torso, according to a police report. A witness helped authorities identify Kondrat’yev as the suspect.
A video of the incident obtained by NBC affiliate WSAV shows a handful of sign-waving protesters surrounding Gaetz as a cup arcs through the air and lands on him.
Some social media users speculated that Gaetz had been the latest victim of “milkshaking,” a rising British protest trend that involves throwing milkshakes at controversial or right-wing politicians, particularly Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.
“No, it was not a milkshake,” Mike Wood, the Pensacola police department’s public information officer, told The Washington Post. “I can just tell you it was a red liquid, a Hawaiian Punch or something like that.”
Responding to the incident on social media, Gaetz thanked police and vowed to not back down. The congressman did not suffer any injuries, according to his office.
“All people are invited to participate in our #OpenGaetz town hall events regardless of viewpoint,” Gaetz’s office said in a statement. “If anyone assaults anyone else, they can expect to be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to ensure the security of all law-abiding participants. We continue to express our deep gratitude to the brave law enforcement officials who always keep our events and our community safe.”
According to Ballotpedia, Kondrat’yev ran against Gaetz in a 2016 House primary election but withdrew before the filing deadline, though her name does not appear in official state records. On Saturday, she held a sign reading “Gaetz — wipe the blood from your hands, A+ rating — NRA, save our kids, vote Gaetz out in 2020” as she was arrested, according to a police report.
She started a fundraiser for her legal fees on Facebook, writing, “Not sure how much court stuff costs but I was charged with Battery today for allegedly milkshaking Congressman Matt Gaetz. Funds will be used for court and related expenses unless donors specify otherwise.” She has raised about half of her $2,000 goal so far.
Kondrat’yev could not immediately be reached for comment.
Gaetz, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has raised his visibility by advocating for conservative policies and being a vocal supporter of President Trump in Congress and on Fox News.
The assault on Gaetz drew parallels to other liquid-related protests playing out across the Atlantic. Ahead of the European Parliament elections in late May, British politician Farage was struck with a banana-and-salted-caramel milkshake from Five Guys. The alleged thrower, Paul Crowther, was charged with simple assault and will appear in court.
Days later, Farage was trapped on a campaign bus after it was surrounded by a milkshake-bearing mob dressed in black. Other controversial politicians were also struck with the blended beverages in the lead-up to the elections.
The milkshake has emerged as a frothy symbol of resistance in Britain. A Facebook group called “Milkshakes Against Racism” has more than 20,000 followers and declares that “the revolution will be pasteurized.”
The organizers warned protesters that it would be a “lighthearted get together” where violence and illegal activities would not be condoned, before declaring, “Peace and pasteurized freedom!”
Jennifer Hassan contributed to this report.