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Wasserman Schultz is shoved at Venezuelan Democracy Caucus launch event

Alex Daugherty, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- At an event on Wednesday to announce the Venezuela Democracy Caucus, a new, bipartisan group in Congress, Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was harassed by a pro-Nicolas Maduro group that shouted at her, held signs in her face -- and shoved her from behind.

Wasserman Schultz shouted, "I am being assaulted," even as Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Venezuelan activists stepped in to protect her.

Code Pink, a protest group that supports Venezuelan leader Maduro, had been interrupting Wasserman Schultz as she tried to announce the new coalition along with Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Miami.

After the news conference -- which continued despite the disruption -- Wasserman Schultz continued to emphasize the need to push for democracy in Venezuela.

"To be physically assaulted by opponents of freedom is really mind-blowing but that's why I emphasized that we needed to come together, on a bipartisan basis, to make sure in Congress that we are standing together, Republicans and Democrats, to push back and make sure we can bring freedom and democracy once again to the Venezuelan people," Wasserman Schultz said.

Wasserman Schultz, who was unhurt in the incident, spoke with Capitol Police after the news conference. They did not make any immediate arrests but did issue a bulletin for Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin.

 

"I have certainly been through a lot personally as the head of my party for six years and been through a lot of difficulty," Wasserman Schultz said. "Never have I been physically touched before."

U.S. Capitol Police showed up at Benjamin's Washington house an hour after the protest and said she would be arrested on charges of assaulting the congresswoman. Benjamin argued that she was hit from behind and grabbed Wasserman Schultz so she didn't fall to the ground.

"I was being pulled. I was trying to stop from being thrown onto the ground," Benjamin said in a video. Police in the video said she could come with them voluntarily or they would issue a warrant for her arrest. A Capitol Police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wednesday's event was part of an effort by Venezuelan activists to expand their political reach, already potent in South Florida, across the country.

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