On Monday, a woman named Kristin Mink confronted embattled Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt as he ate lunch at Teaism, a restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Holding her 2-year-old son, Mink, who is a teacher, approached Pruitt and his companion and urged him to resign in light of his mismanagement of the EPA and all the scandals he's been embroiled in.
She introduced her son to Pruitt, and told him he loves animals, breathing clean air, and drinking clean water.
"We deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, someone who believes in climate change and takes it seriously for the benefit of all us, including our children," she said. "I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out." Pruitt didn't respond, and promptly got up and left with his security guards.
A partial list of complaints against Pruitt includes that he has rolled back lifesaving environmental regulations, appears to be a climate-change denier, prioritizes big corporations, and is corrupt to a cartoonish degree. He is currently facing multiple investigations for misusing taxpayer money on, among other things, a $120,000 trip to Italy where he took pasta-making classes, many first-class flights, and installing a $43,000 "secure phone booth" in his office. Just this week, new reports came out that he urged his subordinates to help find his wife a $200,000 job and made them run his personal errands.
This administration has had quite a few weeks when it comes to dining out: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled out of an upscale Mexican restaurant near the White House by protestors shouting, "Shame!" after she defended family separations in a press briefing. A protestor called senior policy adviser Stephen Miller a fascist in a different Mexican establishment in D.C. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary with creative interpretations of the truth, was asked to leave the Red Hen, a farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, VA.
These minor skirmishes — none of which were in the least bit violent — have sparked a conversation about "civility," in which even top Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have told Trump's detractors to pipe down. Let them eat in peace, said Bernie Sanders of all people, whose own supporters have engaged in many a nonviolent protest.
Rep. Maxine Waters struck a different note, for which she was summarily tone-policed by Pelosi and others. At a recent rally in L.A., she rallied attendees to publicly shame members of the administration. "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," she said.
The expressions of protest are an answer to decidedly uncivil policies. Thanks to Republicans' manipulation of the Supreme Court, it's a possibility that even more women will lose their reproductive rights. Not only does the humanitarian crisis on the border rage on, but the administration has proposed changing the asylum process so as to leave even more vulnerable people struggling.
Of course, Trump has called on his own supporters to harass demonstrators, and has denounced journalists as "enemies of the people." One of his most visible backers, the deranged Milo Yiannopoulos, recently told reporters that he "can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists." In response, we heard crickets from the same people who think politely asking the press secretary to leave a restaurant is un-American.
Holding the government accountable and engaging in peaceful protest, whether it's on the Mall in D.C., in your town's public square, or as part of the business you own, is as American as the fireworks we're all going to watch on Wednesday. And, as Michelle Goldberg writes in the New York Times, "As long as our rulers wage war on cosmopolitan culture, they shouldn’t feel entitled to its fruits. If they don’t want to hear from the angry citizens they're supposed to serve, let them eat at Trump Grill."
We'd say the summer of "incivility" is off to a productive start.