But they also drew out the hypocrisy of pro-Donald Trump Republicans over incitement to violence and ought not to overshadow the profound issues of race and justice raised by a harrowing four weeks in court.
Indeed, Republicans argue that her call on protesters to “get more confrontational” if they don’t like the verdict would have resulted in swift punishment from leadership in Congress if they were uttered by a Republican.
Michigan GOP Rep. Lisa McClain complained on the House floor that if Waters were a member of the GOP she would have already stripped of her committee assignments.
“Are they not the words someone would use if they wanted to incite more violence?” McClain asked.
That the presiding judge in the trial warned that the Waters comments might have given the defense of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin an opening during any eventual appeal against conviction raise the level of seriousness even more.
And Waters, from California, has gifted a narrative to conservative media that pundits can use to distract from the eventual verdict and avoid discussing crucial questions about race and policing in America.
Yet it’s also hard to underestimate the sanctimony of Trump-enablers like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, leading the charge against Waters after skipping over or excusing the ex-President’s Capitol insurrection and backing his lies about election fraud that led to it.
In Washington, clearly, incitement is in the eye of the beholder.
Republicans have their own double standards
During Trump’s second impeachment trial, Republicans mobilized behind his defense lawyer’s claim that his calls on his angry crowd to “fight like Hell” before they stormed Capitol Hill were metaphorical and “ordinary political rhetoric.” They’re not giving Waters, a veteran of the civil rights movement and its marches and protests, similar benefit of the doubt.
The instant and politicized controversy that erupted over remarks by Waters in Minnesota probably complicated efforts to seek unity and political remedies once the jury returns a verdict.
“We’ve heard this type of violent rhetoric from Waters before, and the United States Congress must clearly and without reservation reprimand this behavior before more people get hurt,” McCarthy said, unveiling a resolution to censure Waters and to get lawmakers on the record to “stand up for peace on America’s streets.”
This is the same McCarthy who initially said Trump “bears responsibility” for the invasion of the Capitol by supporters on January 6 but then later traveled to pay homage to the ex-President at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. He also tried to reinvent history by saying he didn’t back the former President’s attempt to overthrow a democratic election on the basis of flagrant lies about fraud and he has put Trump at the center of his midterm election campaign.