Accuracy in Media

Kirstjen Nielsen, who leads the Department of Homeland Security, was driven from a Mexican restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C., according to Washingtonian.

“Encountering powerful and controversial people shopping for groceries, dining at restaurants, or hitting up SoulCycle has always been a normal facet of D.C. life,” wrote Jessica Sidman under the headline: “The Kirstjen Nielsen Protest at a D.C. Mexican Restaurant Was a Watershed Moment. Here’s How It Really Went Down.” 

“And for the most part, there’s an unspoken code that we allow them to go about their daily lives uninterrupted,” wrote Nielsen, Washingtonian’s food editor. “At most, maybe someone snaps a photo and sends it to Politico Playbook. But with Nielsen, at this moment of widespread outrage and exasperation, something was different.

“This administration just rises to a whole new level where we need to break the rules of etiquette,” Amanda Werner, a campaign strategist for legal advocacy group Public Justice, told Washingtonian. “People are more willing to reconsider our old social constructs of respect and politeness and realizing there are more important things that are at stake.”

Werner “identifies as transmasculine and uses they/them pronouns,” got a tip from a friend who was eating at the restaurant that Nielsen was there.

“DHS Secretary Nielsen is having dinner at MXDC. Can you tweet on your account? Get activists here,” the friend messaged, along with a snapshot of Nielsen checking her phone at a nearby table.

Werner is becoming a veteran at creatively hassling people in public with whom she politically disagrees, the piece said. She has “made a hobby out of confronting the rich and powerful” and “went viral” last October when she dressed as the Monopoly Man and photobombed the CEO of Equifax during a Senate hearing about the company’s data breach. Werner also “showed up as a Russian troll at the congressional hearing for [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg.”

She usually goes solo, according to Washingtonian. But this time, she texted at least 20 friends and messaged another 15 on Facebook, in addition to reaching out to a “couple organizing groups.” In total, about a dozen people showed up and shouted at Nielsen until she quietly paid her check and left.

Sidman wrote of the restaurant’s owner, who was not there but was being briefed on the action by phone. The owner, Aziz Safi, “has tried to remain diplomatic. He said MXDC has long hosted high-ranking government officials from both parties.

“‘We respect their privacy. We accommodate them, and they like that. They feel like a normal customer. We welcome everyone.’”

Sidman wrote that the owner said “his first concern was safety. There were some families, including kids in high chairs, in the dining room during the protest.”

But he and his staff did nothing to protect the secretary. Werner told Sidman “even the restaurant staff, most of whom are Hispanic, seemed into it. ‘I did see a lot of the waiters and busboys were kind of smiling at us and seemed to be enjoying the fact that we were calling this woman out.’”

“I’m glad when somebody wants to say something and protest, as long as it’s peaceful, it’s not harming anyone, we’re not against it,” the owner told Sidman.

But someone was harmed. Someone’s privacy was not respected. Someone was not accommodated. Someone definitely did not feel like a normal customer, nor did she feel welcome, as evidenced by the fact she left half her dinner uneaten.

“I do think that there’s a special power to confronting people face-to-face and really making them feel the heat,” Werner said.

Photo by World Economic Forum

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