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Protesters Confront Kirstjen Nielsen in a DC Mexican Restaurant

They shouted "Shame! Shame! Shame!" at the Homeland Security Secretary inside MXDC
Nielsen in May. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It probably wasn’t the best timing. A day after Department of Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen defended the separation of immigrant parents from their children at the border, she opted to go out for… Mexican food. Nielsen was spotted at MXDC, a sleek downtown spot helmed by celebrity chef Todd English where pitchers of margaritas go for $44.

When word of her locale hit social media, protestors stormed the restaurant chanting “If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace!,” “Abolish ICE! Abolish ICE!,” and “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

At one point, one of the protestors faced the rest of the diners in the restaurant. “Kirstjen Nielsen will want you to think that we are ruining your dinner,” the protestor says. “She is the secretary of DHS. ICE rips children away from their families every day. They lock them up in cages. They sleep under those silver blankets you guys get at marathons.”

At another point, the protestors demanded to know Nielsen’s salary: “How much do you make locking up children?” one person in the crowd shouted.

We’re in downtown DC disrupting DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s dinner at MXDC. The irony isn’t lost on us that this is a Mexican restaurant. Nielsen has led the program to tear apart familes. 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 #abolishICE #abolishCBP

Posted by Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America on Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America is taking credit for the protest. “Secretary Nielsen and everyone else who has carried out these brutal and cold-blooded orders to rip apart families should never be allowed to eat and drink in public again,” Margaret McLaughlin, a member of the group’s steering committee says in a statement. “These barbarous acts must end and those at the helm must be held accountable. While Secretary Nielsen’s dinner may have been ruined, it is nothing compared to the horrors she has inflicted on innocent families”

Video shows Nielsen sitting with her head down, not looking at the protestors. MDCDSA says in its statement that police were called and attempted to detain several of its members to no avail.

Eventually, Nielsen and her dining companion left the restaurant and beelined for a black SUV.

In a statement, MXDC said its staff “graciously serves all guests who walk through our doors, regardless of their political standing.” Most of the restaurant’s employees are Hispanic, it says, and that “We believe that a restaurant is a place to nourish the spirit of humanity, not to break it down.” On Tuesday night, the statement reads, MXDC “managed the situation in the best interest of safety for everyone.”

Homeland Security spokesperson Tyler Q. Houlton said on Twitter that Nielsen heard from a “small group of protesters who share her concern with our immigration laws” during dinner and encouraged the protesters to contact members of Congress with their concerns about immigration policy.

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Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.