On Tuesday evening, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen was driven out of a Mexican restaurant a few blocks from the White House when a dozen protesters arrived shouting “shame!” and “if kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace!” according to a Wednesday Washington Post report.
She reportedly sat with her head down, listening to the chanting for about 10 minutes and making a phone call before paying her bill and leaving.
According to video footage posted to Facebook, one protester approached the table to address her.
“Secretary Nielsen!” he said. “How dare you spend your evening here eating dinner as you’re complicit in the separation and deportation of over 10,000 children separated from their parents? How can you enjoy a Mexican dinner as you’re deporting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States? We call on you to end family separation and abolish ICE!”
Other protesters joined the chorus, yelling “in a Mexican restaurant, of all places!” and “have you listened to it? Do you hear the babies crying?” in reference to the viral audio leaked from a detention center.
A statement released to the Washington Post by a DHS spokesman after the interrupted meal painted a very different scene.
“While having a work dinner tonight, the Secretary and her staff heard from a small group of protesters who share her concern with our current immigration laws that have created a crisis on our southern border,” it said. “The Secretary encourages all — including this group — who want to see an immigration system that works, that contributes to our economy, that protects our security, and that reflects our values to reach out to Members of Congress and seek their support to close the terrible immigration loopholes that have made our system a mess. The Secretary has been working with Members of Congress for months in search of a solution and she will continue to do so this week.”
The protest was organized by the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America.
“While Secretary Nielsen’s dinner may have been ruined, it is nothing compared to the horrors she has inflicted on innocent families,” the organization said in a statement.