Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi had to be escorted out of a Tampa theater screening of the Mister Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” by police Friday night due to screaming protesters who hounded her throughout the building.
Enraged at Bondi over her recent actions on health care policy and her stance on immigration, the activists created what the Fla. AG’s spokesman called a “volatile scene,” getting into Bondi’s face, blocking her exit, and spitting on her.
“What would Mister Rogers think about you and your legacy in Florida? Taking away health insurance from people with pre-existing conditions, Pam Bondi!” Maria José Chapa, a labor organizer, screeches at Bondi in the video. “Shame on you!
“You’re a horrible person!” another protester bellows.
Add “movies” tonthe list of things Republicans can’t do under the new rules https://t.co/5rolIWr52Q
— Greg Pollowitz (@GPollowitz) June 23, 2018
Bondi told the Times that the protest conflicted with Fred Rogers’ message of peace, love, and tolerance. “We were in a movie about anti-bullying and practicing peace and love and tolerance and accepting of people for their differences,” Bondi said. “That’s what Mister Rogers is all about. We all believe in free speech, but there’s a big difference there.”
The organizers didn’t plan to confront Florida’s top law enforcement official Friday night, Heberlein told the Times in an interview. But when one of them spotted Bondi in the ticket line before the film, he said they knew they had to say something.
According to Chapa, one of the organizers confronted Bondi before the movie over her February decision to join in a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act — a move seen by many progressives as a threat to people with pre-existing conditions covered under the law.
“[Another protester] approached her first and she was trying to engage with her and ask her difficult questions, and she felt uncomfortable answering the questions,” Chapa told the Times. “And I guess she felt threatened because she called the police.”
The Tampa Police Department confirmed that they got a call from Florida Highway Patrol asking for help escorting Bondi out of the Tampa Theatre.
Asked by the Times about their protest, the Organizer Florida activists played down the confrontation.
Heberlein said that the movie’s depiction of Rogers’s work with children reminded him of what he sees as Bondi’s support for conservative immigration and health care policies that hurt the most vulnerable Floridians. But he conceded that he and his friends likely would have confronted Bondi no matter what film they were seeing.
“I feel like even if we went to see The Incredibles we would have said something,” Heberlein said.
Say something they did. Chapa said she tried to engage Bondi in a conversation about health care and immigration after the movie, but she was rebuffed. That’s when the shouting started.
According to Bondi’s spokesman, Whitney Ray, however, it was much worse than they let on.
“The video they are choosing to share is of the least aggressive portion of the attack that transpired after police arrived to control the scene. What they are not sharing publicly are several previous encounters involving large men getting in the Attorney General’s face, spitting and blocking her exit,” Ray said in an emailed statement. “The Attorney General tried to have a conversation with these individuals, however, when it became abundantly clear that they were not interested in a constructive dialog but were only there to cause a scene, the attorney general tried to leave the volatile scene.”
“We responded at approximately 8:06 P.M. as the showing was ending and there were no further incidents,” Tampa PD public information officer Janelle McGregor said.
Maria José Chapa called the Florida AG’s version of events a “lie,” arguing that there were no large men in her party, a claim belied by the group’s own video, which shows a rather large man confronting the police at the end. When asked whether Mister Rogers would have handled the situation the same way the activists did, Chapa said, “I’m not Mister Rogers. I don’t have the poise or temperament of Mister Rogers.”
Heberlein told the Times that he has no regrets about how the protesters acted. “If you refuse to meet with us, we’re coming to where you’re at. We’re coming to where you’re watching a movie or eating dinner,” he said. “Sorry, not sorry.”
Organize Florida is an Orlando-based tax-exempt social welfare organization that trains community activists and regularly organizes protests in the Central Florida and Tampa Bay areas to advance a left-of-center agenda. According to Influence Watch, “the group is associated with the left-wing organizing network Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), which has been at the forefront of demonstrations against the Trump administration.” CPD’s largest donor is (surprise!) left-wing billionaire George Soros.
The hounding of Pam Bondi at the Tampa Theater is only the latest hostile and harassing action taken by the organized left against a Republican woman this week.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was chased out of a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C., earlier this week and Soros-linked activists later protested at her home in Alexandria, Virginia. And White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of a Lexington, VA, restaurant Friday night because she works for President Trump.
Earlier this week, actor Peter Fonda tweeted that First Lady Melania Trump should “stand up against the giant a****** she is married to,” and “we should rip Barron Trump from his mother’s arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles.”
In other tweets, he said that Sanders’ children should be kidnapped and Nielsen should be caged naked and raped in public while being filmed.