WASHINGTON - In the middle of a controversial policy separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border, protesters interrupted Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's dinner at a Mexican restaurant in D.C. Tuesday night.
Just a day earlier, Secretary Nielsen defended her department's policies, saying "We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job. This administration has a simple message — If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you."
Protesters said they organized the demonstration within 45 minutes after a fellow member of the Democratic Socialists of America saw Nielsen inside the restaurant.
"I was shocked she had the gall to do that," said Margaret McLaughlin of the Democratic Socialists of America. "She is tearing apart families, mostly Latin American families at the U.S.-Mexican border and there she is eating tacos, minding her own business and acting like she is any other person that is not a ghoul."
That's why Margaret McLaughlin said the group decided to interrupt Nielsen's dinner at MXDC, to bring their message right to her.
"We waited outside for a bit and then asked if we could go to the bar," said McLaughlin. "Once we were there, we decided on a few chants and walked over to her table."
The group chanted for a few minutes, saying things like "shame" and "not in D.C., not in the U.S."
According to McLaughlin, the Secret Service soon created a physical barrier between Nielsen and the protestors. The restaurant manager asked the group to leave. When they didn't, police were called. The group left the area. No one was arrested.
On Tuesday MXDC, which is owned by celeb chef Todd English, released this statement:
"MXDC Cocina Mexicana is a well-established restaurant located in the heart of DC, close to Capitol Hill and the White House. As always, our staff graciously serves all guests who walk through our doors, regardless of their political standing. Our staff, most of whom are Hispanic, have been with our restaurant family for many years. They represent hosts, servers, kitchen staff and upper management who take care of each and every guest who dines with us. We believe that a restaurant is a place to nourish the spirit of humanity, not to break it down. Our goal is to serve everyone to the best of our ability. Based on tweets (with thousands of likes) there was a call to action - to come to 600 14th Street and join the protest. MXDC managed the situation in the best interest of safety for everyone on June 19th as a result of the unusual situation."
The protestors streamed the incident on Facebook live. The video now has more than 1 million views. Some people are criticizing the group for interrupting Nielsen and other guests at the restaurant.
"The message got out there," said McLaughlin. "People can be upset all they want, but direct action gets the goods."
In a statement from Secretary Nielsen's office, she said she encourages the group of protestors and all people to reach out to their members of Congress "to close immigration loopholes that made our system a mess."