WASHINGTON — Several videos have gone viral appearing to show a United States congressman grabbing an activist at a press conference on the Capitol Building grounds Wednesday.
The videos, which were posted to Twitter around 4:15 pm Wednesday, show a man who identifies himself as Rep. Clay Higgins (R – Louisiana) putting his hands around activist and Maryland resident Jake Burdett and pulling him away from a media gathering.
Burdett, co-chair of the group Our Revolution Howard County, can be heard in one video yelling a question to Representative Paul Gosar about a previous press conference the Arizona Republican had appeared in.
After that, Higgins walks over toward Burdett. Burdett asks Higgins not to touch him. Higgins then responds that he is a United States congressman who respects Burdett’s First Amendment Rights.
“All I’m asking you to do is just peacefully standby and I promise you I’ll come to you straight up and answer all of your questions,” Higgins said.
The interaction between the two men did not end there, however.
Another activist, Kristy Fogle, founder of the Maryland Progressive Healthcare Coalition, happened to be in the area for another press conference that had just wrapped up. She eventually noticed another interaction between Higgins and Burdett and started recording it with her cellphone.
“[Burdett] had wanted to ask tough questions to Representative Lauren Boebert and so I had seen him walk around the other side of the press conference to other the side of it, opposite I was on,” Fogle said. “And, I saw him attempt to ask a question and several of the male reps were saying, ‘Stop. No, no, no’.”
She said Burdett then walked around the back of the press conference, evading the other Congressmen.
“When he did that, he was able to get a little bit closer to Lauren Boebert and he said, ‘Rep Boebert’, and he went to ask her a question, he didn’t even get it out of his mouth,” Fogle said. “And, Representative Higgins, who I didn’t even realize was Representative Higgins at the time, I thought he was a bodyguard the way he was acting, he grabbed Jake and kind of pushed him backwards.”
Burdett told WUSA he felt threatened and intimidated by Higgins during the situation.
“Touching me like that was never necessary," he said.
Burdett added he was surprised by Higgins' actions since lawmakers are regularly questioned outside the Capitol Building.
“Some elements of our elected representation in Congress feel they're untouchable, they’re above the law, they can lay hands on people, and there’s going to be no accountability," he said.
Burdett maintained he had a right to ask politicians questions in a public space.
Higgins posted a statement on Twitter regarding the activist, calling him a "103M," which is police patrol code for "disturbance by mental person."
"On May 17, 2023, many Members of Congress, primarily House Freedom Caucus Members, conducted a scheduled press conference regarding concerns over the World Health Organization and America's sovereignty. Many activists and liberal protesters were present. One agitator activist protester became very disruptive and threatening, in violation of the law. It is unknown why Capitol Police were not stationed at the press conference. Congressman Higgins successfully de-escalated the situation," the video attached to the tweet reads before cutting to video of the incident.
"Congressman Higgins' de-escalation effort was initially successful, but seconds later, the activist aggressively disrupted Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert and approached her in a threatening manner."
Higgins reportedly maintains a current law enforcement commission and is 2023 Louisiana P.O.S.T. certified.
Fogle, who said she knew Burdett prior to his encounter with Higgins, did not look like he was trying to touch or harm anyone at the event.
“At that time, the Capitol Police came and asked Jake, ‘What’s going on here’ and took him across the street to kind of separate him from the arrest of us,” Fogle said.
“Why would this one member of Congress think it’s okay to put his hand on an activist?” she said. “The activist did not come up and try to physically harm anybody.”
United States Capitol Police tell WUSA9 no complaint has been filed in relation to the incident and that Burdett was not detained.
“We are aware of this situation, interviewing the people who were involved, and reviewing the available video,” a USCP statement reads.