Credit: Video screenshot

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In a stunning display of attempted diplomacy gone wrong, Mayor Muriel Bowser Tuesday emerged from an event at the Mount Pleasant Library to face protesters who were asking her to reaffirm the District’s sanctuary city policy in stronger terms. It is an issue about which she has been unequivocal. Yet facing a group with whom she shares a conviction, she managed to reassure no one and become almost hostile by the end of the confrontation.

“No ICE in the bucket, don’t put us in jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell,” the group chanted over and over, which can be seen in a Facebook video posted online yesterday by Claudia Barragan.

After a while, the mayor came forward to address the demonstrators.

“We’re facing a fascist maniac,” one man told her as the crowd made it clear they thought she had not been strident enough in her condemnations of immigration crackdowns or reassuring enough to the District’s immigrant population.

“Mam, hold up, mam, question,” Bowser said to one woman (at around the 6-minute mark). “Are the police asking for immigration status?”

“In some cases, they are,” the woman responded.

“I would like to know it,” the mayor said.

“So you need to tell the community….”

“I have told the community,” the mayor interrupted.

…”reassure us. I voted for you.”

“I appreciate the anxiety you feel, but your anger should not be addressed at your mayor,” she said.

It only degenerated from there. At one point, Bowser told a woman she should vote for her again.

Marion Barry would have had those people eating out of his hand,” says political consultant Chuck Thies (who is admittedly aligned with incoming D.C. Councilmember Vincent Gray, who lost mayoral re-election to Bowser in 2014).

“He would have said to them, ‘You’re right. Be here tomorrow at noon on the front steps. I’ll bring the cameras. Let’s make sure everyone hears our message.’ They agree on the same policy, but she manages to piss them off.”

The mayor’s office says it was unaware of the planned protest and was taken by surprise. Bowser spokeswoman LaToya Foster points out that Bowser has addressed such concerns in recent forums.

At an ANC meeting a woman who identified herself as a third-generation native from Mount Pleasant, whose ancestors were from India, spoke to say she sent a letter to Bowser, each member of the city council, and several other officials, but received no response.

“The letter that I had sent, which was pretty heartfelt … came from a place of extreme fear, and also care to protect our immigrant communities here,” she said.

Bowser said she hadn’t seen the letter and apologized that the woman had received no response.

“Based on everything you’ve written and said, I support everything you just said,” Bowser replied. “I am sorry for how everybody feels, and I know people are angry, and I know people are anxious, and I know people are scared. But the biggest thing that I can report back to you is that we live in an inclusive and welcoming city that rejected all of that—all of the racist comments. Rejected our country moving in a way that is away from the principals and the leadership of Barack Obama. We rejected all of those things. … Trump got the least votes of any Republican, I think, in the history of the District of Columbia. So we reject those things. … I don’t know what his presidency is going to bring. He could change overnight, or he could be even worse than what he has said on the campaign trail. So what we have to do is be prepared for the worst.” 

“You don’t have to be concerned. And I think that I can speak for all the members of the council, and if we have any of our employees that are doing otherwise, we’ll figure that out. But I think I can say for 99% of them, that they agree with everything that you said.”