On Friday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul suggested that a group of protesters who heckled him following president Donald Trump's Republican National Convention speech may have been "paid to come here, are not from Washington, D.C., and are sort of paid to be anarchists." Paul did not provide any evidence for his allegation, but he did call for the FBI to investigate and arrest those he claimed "attacked" him as he left the White House on Thursday.
Speaking with Fox News on Friday, Paul went so far as to suggest that he and his wife could have been injured or worse, claiming "had [the protesters] gotten at us they would have gotten us to the ground, we might not have been killed, might just have been injured by being kicked in the head, or kicked in the stomach until we were senseless."
Notably, Paul later confirmed that neither he nor his wife were actually injured during the incident, and nowhere in video taken of the confrontation does it appear the protesters even touched him. Rather, save for an instance in which one of his many police escorts shoves into — and is shoved back by — the assembled of hecklers, Paul appears to be walking relatively easily through the crowd.
Paul also went out of his way to insult the protesters for demanding he recognize Breonna Taylor, a 25-year-old black woman who was shot and killed in her Louisville, Kentucky home by police during a no-knock raid intended for someone else. Paul had, in fact, introduced legislation named after Taylor banning the type of raids that lead to Taylor's death.
"They were shouting threats to us, to kill us, to hurt us, but also threats saying shout, shouting 'say her name,' Breonna Taylor, and it's like you couldn't reason with this mob," Paul said. "I'm actually the author of the Breonna Taylor law to end no-knock raids, so the irony is lost on these idiots that they're trying to kill the person who's actually trying to get rid of no-knock raids."
Still, Paul's call for legal action against what, by all indications appeared to be a boisterous, but non-physical crowd of hecklers seems to play well into the Trump administration and its allies' ongoing efforts to criminalize protest and dissent. While being yelled at by a crowd of protesters is certainly an unpleasant experience, it's also the sort of thing politicians — particularly those who have made a point of being a very public face for and advocate of any number of deeply emotionally charged issues — should expect.
Representing your constituents, and making decisions that affect the nation as a whole, should not be done in a bubble, or from high above the public for whom an elected official ostensibly serves. If being yelled at from safely behind a phalanx of police is part and parcel of having the immense power that comes with being a high profile U.S. Senator, then that seems like a relatively small price to pay.
It remains unclear whether the FBI will indeed investigate the group that heckled Paul, as the senator requested on Fox. But, Paul made clear what he hoped would come of those who inconvenienced him after Trump's speech.
"If you're inciting a riot that's a crime," Paul said "But if you're paying someone to incite a riot that person needs to go to jail as well."