Ayanna Pressley Tells Supporters to 'Bring the Fire' Days Before ICE Firebombing


If it seems like only a few months ago that we were busy holding politicians responsible for their “rhetoric” and linking it to politically motivated violence, it’s because it was.

Whether it was the mosque shooting in Christchurch or the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and California, we — and by we, what I mean is the media — seemed to spend just as much time blaming politicians for things they had said or fringe individuals who may have supported them as they spent blaming twisted, bigoted individuals who committed the attacks.

That rule was suspended over the weekend when Willem Van Spronsen attacked an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Tacoma, Washington, armed with incendiary devices and a rifle.

It wasn’t because Van Spronsen didn’t kill anybody. Neither did pathetic “Trump-loving pipe bomber” (the New York Daily News‘ words, not mine) Cesar Sayoc. We (again, meaning the media) still lay a goodly portion of the blame for his actions at the feet of President Donald Trump because Sayoc sent his dud devices to individuals with whom the president had ongoing disagreements.

No, the reason we’re not blaming politicians is that the politicians who might have inspired this attack weren’t just all liberal but liberal causes célèbre — specifically, two members of the group of four freshman representatives now being called “The Squad.”

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The attacker in Saturday’s case left behind an inchoate manifesto as so many of these individuals do. In it, he used the phrase “concentration camps” to refer to detention centers no less than four times. This, of course, is the phraseology popularized by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the de facto leader of The Squad.

The connection was hardly mentioned in media reports, nor was Ocasio-Cortez’s refusal to comment on the attack.

It wasn’t just Ocasio-Cortez whose “heated rhetoric” would be under examination were these Republican lawmakers. Earlier this month, after a visit to one of the detention facilities, Squad member and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley said legislators would “bring the fire” if conditions at the detainment facilities didn’t change.

“This is about the preservation of our humanity, and this is about seeing every single person there as a member of your own family,” Pressley said in remarks outside the Clint, Texas, detention center after taking a tour as part of a congressional delegation.

Do you think Rep. Ayanna Pressley's rhetoric went too far?

“I am tired of the health and the safety, the humanity, and the full freedoms of black and brown children being negotiated and compromised and moderated,” she said. “We need a system that works, that is humane and that is compassionate, that keeps families together.

“I learned a long time ago that when change happens, it’s either because people see the light, or they feel the fire. Today, we are lifting up these stories in the hopes that you will see the light — and if you don’t, we will bring the fire.”

Ayanna Pressley bears no direct responsibility for the fact that an antifa-affiliated madman decided to attack an ICE facility with incendiary devices and a rifle less than two weeks after she made this remark, no matter how inflammatory her rhetoric was toward people who are merely enforcing the law.

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However, look at the turnabout test here and imagine what would have happened if a madman firebombed an abortion clinic right after a Republican congressman said they were going to “bring the fire” against Planned Parenthood.

As of early Wednesday morning, there’s only one story dealing the Tacoma ICE attack on The New York Times’ website that isn’t from a wire service. It doesn’t mention the attacker’s manifesto or his “concentration camps” comment. A quote from a friend of the attacker, via The Seattle Times, in which she says the attack was a form of suicide actively omits the part where that friend says “he was able to kind of do it in a way that spoke to his political beliefs. I know he went down there knowing he was going to die,” mentioning nothing about his politics.

The story was filed Saturday, so it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that maybe the manifesto wasn’t available to reporters at the time. In the interim, The Times hasn’t done any original reporting on the attack, leaving coverage to wire service reports from the likes of Reuters and The Associated Press.

A search for Cesar Sayoc, the aforementioned failed pipe bomber, yields so many results that I could basically throw a dart at my MacBook screen and find a story that illustrates the hypocrisy here. (I’m not going to, for reasons anyone who’s priced Apple product repairs recently will understand.)

This one from Oct. 26 should demonstrate the problem quite neatly: “Before Cesar Sayoc Was a Bombing Suspect, He Was a Trump Superfan.”

“The man attended a rally by Mr. Trump in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Oct. 13, 2016; the president’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017; and then another rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on Feb. 18, 2017,” the story reads. “At the first rally, which took place weeks before Election Day, the suspect, Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, of Aventura, Fla., recorded a selfie video.

“At the same rally, Mr. Trump assailed the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, who had a suspicious package addressed to her Westchester County home in New York.

“At the second rally, in Melbourne, Fla., Mr. Sayoc can be seen in a photo holding a ‘Welcome President Trump’ sign over his head. At these rallies, Mr. Trump regularly took aim at the news media, deriding critical coverage of him as ‘fake news.’

“At this particular rally, Mr. Trump said the media had ‘become a big part of the problem.’ CNN, a frequent target of his criticism, had a suspicious package delivered to its New York City office on Wednesday. Another one was intercepted at a mail facility in Midtown Manhattan on Friday.”

This is nothing short of drawing a tacit connection between things Trump said and attempted acts of violence. Will The Times be examining whether the Tacoma attacker had been a “superfan” of The Squad? The fact that they’ve already abandoned a politically motivated attack on a government target to the wire services mere days after it happened pretty much answers that question.

No, Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley aren’t responsible for the actions of Van Spronsen. However, that’s not the narrative the media has previously spun for us around those who perpetrate political or social violence. These are two elected officials threatening to “bring the fire” against law enforcement officials or calling these detention facilities “concentration camps” where migrants are forced to drink out of toilets.

This is rhetoric that’s both heated and unsubstantiated. It’s demagogy, plain and simple, meant to fire up the base while accomplishing nothing substantive.

Don’t reexamine Pressley’s statement outside of the Clint facility because of a politically motivated shooter. Reexamine it because it’s stupid, uninformed and deliberately instigative.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture