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Mike Peer

Pam Bondi Can't go to a simple Movie

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The left loses its cool

‘When you’re violent and cursing and screaming and blocking me from walking into a movie, there’s something wrong,’ said one top GOP official.

 

By MARC CAPUTO and DANIEL LIPPMAN

 

06/25/2018 05:04 AM EDT

Two senior Trump administration officials were heckled at restaurants. A third was denied service. Florida GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi required a police escort away from a movie about Mister Rogers after activists yelled at her in Tampa — where two other Republican lawmakers say they were also politically harassed last week, one of them with her kids in tow.

In the Donald Trump era, the left is as aggressively confrontational as anyone can remember.

What it means for 2018 — whether it portends a blue wave of populist revolt for Democrats or a red wall of silent majority resistance from Republicans — largely depends on one’s political persuasion. But there’s a bipartisan sense that this election season marks another inflection point in the collapse of civil political discourse.

Few disagree that Democrats are marching, protesting and confronting Republican officials with more intensity during the midterm elections than at any time in decades. The progressive fervor recalls conservative opposition to the previous president in his first midterm, when Democratic members of Congress were left running from disruptive town halls and ended up being crushed at the polls in November.

"If you see anybody from that Cabinet — in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station — you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” implored California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters at a Saturday rally, prompting an immediate conservative backlash on social media.

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The intense, in-your-face approach toward public officials is only expected to intensify, fueled by social media and what appears to be an increasingly polarized and angry electorate.

“It is part of a trend,” said Bondi, a close Trump ally who came face-to-face with protesters Friday at the Tampa Theatre before and after a screening of the Mister Rogers documentary “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

“When you’re violent and cursing and screaming and blocking me from walking into a movie, there’s something wrong,” she said. “The next people are going to come with guns. That’s what’s going to happen.”

According to Bondi, she and a friend were confronted at least four times — while buying tickets, entering the theater, standing in line at the concession stand and then on their way out — and that activists were aggressive in each instance, with one yelling so loudly at her that he spit in her hair, either unintentionally or because he meant to expectorate on her. She said they also taunted her friend as “blue eyes” and asked him in a threatening manner if he was going to protect her, as though they wanted to fight.

The activists tell a different story.

“Pam Bondi’s version of events is inaccurate and don’t reflect what happened,” said Tim Heberlein, Tampa Bay regional director for the progressive group Organize Florida. He said he and a handful of fellow activists coincidentally ran into Bondi at the movie.

Heberlein said the videos the group released don’t comport with Bondi’s version of events. Bondi said the reason for that is that the activists released only the videos showing what happened as they were leaving the movie, when Tampa Police were there and everyone was on their best behavior.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is pictured. | Getty Images

Heberlein said the activists tried to talk to Bondi about her policies and political stances: support for Trump, and her longstanding opposition to Obamacare in the courts.

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