Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pushed back on criticism of protesters gathering outside a Washington, D.C., restaurant where Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was dining, arguing that they were exercising their First Amendment rights.
Buttigieg said he had no problem with the protesters, as they were “peaceful,” noting that they were angry about the recent Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“When public officials go into public life, we should expect two things. One, you should always be free from violence, harassment, and intimidation. And two, you’re never going to be free from criticism or peaceful protests, people exercising their rights,” Buttigieg said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “Protesters are upset because a right, an important right that the majority of Americans support, was taken away.”
Kavanaugh was dining at a restaurant in downtown D.C. last Wednesday when he made a backdoor exit after a group of abortion rights protesters was tipped off while the justice was eating and showed up out front. The group reportedly never came into contact with the justice, and he was able to finish his meal, though he skipped out before dessert.
Kavanaugh was dining at the downtown D.C. location Morton’s Steakhouse. The chain later condemned the protest.
“Honorable Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh and all of our other patrons at the restaurant were unduly harassed by unruly protestors while eating dinner at our Morton’s restaurant,” a Morton’s representative said in a statement obtained by Politico. “Politics, regardless of your side or views, should not trample the freedom at play of the right to congregate and eat dinner. There is a time and place for everything. Disturbing the dinner of all of our customers was an act of selfishness and void of decency.”
Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, responded to a post about the incident on Friday, tweeting that it sounds like Kavanaugh “just wanted some privacy to make his own dining decisions.”
During his interview on Sunday, Buttigieg insisted that he would have no problem if the same situation had happened to him while dining.
“I can’t even tell you the number of spaces, venues, and scenarios where I’ve been protested. And the bottom line is this: Any public figure should always, always be free from violence, intimidation, and harassment but should never be free from criticism or people exercising their First Amendment rights,” Buttigieg said.