Gauntlets of sexual assault survivors lined the halls of the Capitol complex on Wednesday. Police officers flanked senators on the move.
It was also National Coffee With a Cop Day, and Sen. John Kennedy took a break to thank officers for their work. He was one of several lawmakers with a police escort earlier in the week.
“I mean, we did talk about that,” the Louisiana Republican said of the heightened tension and security. “I told them, just for what the point of view is worth, people have the right to petition their government. They have the right to talk to their senators. If they want to raise their voice, they have the right to do that.”
As we walked through a Senate office building in the morning — this time without an officer — we passed a group of protesters.
Watch: Security Increases for Senate Judiciary Members as Tensions Heighten on the Hill
“Now, if it becomes harassment or if it becomes …” he said.
“We need you to vote against …” a protester yelled.
“… disruptive …” the senator continued.
“… an attempted rapist on the Supreme Court, Sen. Kennedy,” the protester yelled.
Kennedy pressed on, “… like we’re hearing right now …”
“Can you look at me as a survivor?” a protester asked.
“… then I think it’s over the top. But I understand why people do it, because they feel passionate,” Kennedy said.
He said he’s not bothered by protesting in the office buildings, unless someone gets physical. Run-ins like this have become the new normal as the Capitol enters its second week on high alert over a Supreme Court pick.
All the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have been getting a lot of face time with Capitol Police officers lately. They protected the room while the committee heard testimony from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and accuser Christine Blasey Ford, and now they’re walking around with senators.
National Coffee With a Cop Day, which falls on the first Wednesday in October, came at the height of it all. Four Capitol Police officers sat with Kennedy in his office for breakfast on Wednesday.
“I wanted to thank them for their great work during the confirmation hearing. It was really difficult. I mean, you saw the hearing. … The officers had to stand the whole time,” Kennedy said. “They had to constantly watch the audience to make sure that they could get to somebody quickly when they were trying to disrupt. And there’s a lot of pressure on them. They did a great job.”
Kennedy also brought up police brutality.
“I pointed out to them – I didn’t ask them to comment on this – but I know they don’t do it for the money. There are some police officers, just like there’s some senators and lawyers … who don’t do their job properly. But it’s a small, small, small minority,” he said.
His trademark bluntness was on display.
“To those who hate cops, just because they’re cops, I would tell them that the next time they get in trouble, feel free to call a crackhead,” he said. “The vast, vast, vast majority of men and women who agree to protect the rest of us against bad people and nuts and wack jobs, I think deserve our praise, not our condemnation.”
Kennedy made sure to participate in the nationwide coffee day because he has become close, as many senators are, with the Capitol Police officers.
“I work late a good bit, so I see the officers when they’re handling the exits, and I try to speak to all of them and thank them for the work they do. It’s dangerous work,” the senator said. “I mean, if you talk to any cop who will speak frankly with you … they’ll tell you, if they stop somebody, for example, for speeding or a moving violation and they walk up to that car window, they don’t know what’s waiting for them.”