The nation’s immigration debate took a sharp turn Monday as right-wing figures called on Trump administration officials to start carrying firearms and encouraged their supporters to stake out a controversial restaurant.
The calls came after a week of heavy criticism over the administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents when they cross the border — including protests of administration officials who helped implement the policy.
Far-right conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones urged his listeners Monday to stake out the Red Hen, a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia that declined to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday out of disagreement with the administration’s policies.
Jones said that he believes liberals will vandalize or attack the restaurant in order to claim the damage was done by conservatives — a false-flag operation that’s become a cornerstone of Jones’ conspiracy theories. He then pointed to left-leaning anti-hate groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and antifa, or anti-fascist protesters, as likely culprits.
“I’m telling you, the left is going to hit the Red Hen in the next 48 hours, 99 percent chance,” Jones said in the clip, first reported by Media Matters for America. “And when they do hit it, we can blow their operation in another devastating victory if somebody just politely goes and sits there and watches it with a camera rolling, you will catch them.”
Meanwhile, several conservative legal scholars and activists called Monday for administration officials to get concealed-carry firearms permits to protect themselves from protesters and others who are unhappy with administration policies.
“I’m serious about this — when they aren’t in a federal building, Trump aides should carry a gun to defend themselves from the radical crazy people,” Emily Miller, author of the book Emily Gets Her Gun, tweeted. “Better safe than sorry.”
I'm serious about this — when they aren't in a federal building, Trump aides should carry a gun to defend themselves from the radical crazy people. Better safe than sorry. https://t.co/rTneojMJPc
— Emily Miller (@EmilyMiller) June 25, 2018
That call was echoed by other pro-gun advocates Monday in interviews with The Washington Examiner.
“There are simply not enough police in D.C. or Virginia or Maryland to protect all Trump officials at their homes and when they go out to restaurants,” John Lott Jr., president of the conservative Crime Prevention Research Center, told the Examiner. “Getting a concealed handgun permit would be helpful to protect themselves and their family.”
John Banzhaf III, a professor of law at George Washington University, pointed to comments over the weekend by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) that critics of the administration should “push back” on officials when they’re out in public.
“High level officials in the Trump administration, especially if their faces are likely to be recognized by many in the public as a result of appearances on TV, might want to consider applying for a license to carry… in view of the call by Rep. Maxine Waters for the public to ‘absolutely harass’ these officials in public places,” Banzhaff reportedly said.
Waters defended her comments on Monday, calling peaceful protest “the democratic way.”
The administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents when they cross the border, which President Donald Trump ended last week, sparked at least two peaceful protests at restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area where administration officials were eating.
Those confrontations, combined with Waters’ comments, have set off a firestorm over civility and protest, with people on both sides of the aisle calling for greater restraint as others argue the confrontations are necessary to confront what they say are the administration’s brutal policies.
“She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement,” Trump wrote. “Be careful what you wish for Max!”