WASHIGNTON, D.C. – With chants of “shame” and “end family separation,” protesters shouted at Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as she dined at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, DC.
Protesters from the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America came into MXDC Cocina Mexicana, a popular restaurant near the White House, holding signs and confronted Nielsen on Tuesday night.
The secretary had been sitting at the back of the restaurant and had a security detail at the time of the protest. Nielsen was seen sitting quietly and later, talking on the phone in the video posted by the group, as protesters booed and peppered her with questions.
“Aren’t you a mother, too?”
“How do you sleep at night?”
“Do you hear the babies crying?”
“If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace,” they chanted.
“No borders! No walls! Sanctuary for all!”
After about 10 minutes, Nielsen left the restaurant and got into an SUV.
“The irony isn’t lost on us that this is a Mexican restaurant,” the group posted on its Facebook page. “Nielsen has led the program to tear apart families. We are here to tell her to put an end to separating families, to step down as head of the department, and that ICE and CBP must be abolished.”
The protest came as Nielsen is becoming the face of one of the Trump administration’s most controversial policies. She appeared in a Monday press briefing to defend the practice of separating parents from children at the border after images of children being kept in chain-link cages dominated news coverage and prompted widespread outrage from Democrats and Republicans.
The group posted the video on its Facebook page and in a release to the media.
“We will not stand by and let Sec. Nielsen dine in peace, while she is directing her employees to tear little girls away from their mothers and crying boys away from their fathers at our border,” Margaret McLaughlin, a member of the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America steering committee, said in a statement.
DC Metro Police was called to the incident but referred questions to the Secret Service. There hasn’t been comment yet from the Secret Service.
DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton tweeted that Nielsen was having a work dinner when she heard from “a small group of protesters.”
Critics said she did little to answer their questions about the zero-tolerance policy as she, at times, contradicted what other administration officials have said regarding whether it was aimed at deterring other immigrants from crossing the border illegally.
President Donald Trump lauded her, tweeting on Tuesday that she “did a fabulous job” in the press conference.