Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema condemns activists who filmed her inside restroom

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said Monday that activists who confronted her outside an Arizona State University and filmed her inside a restroom were not engaging in "legitimate protest."

The Democratic senator said that the immigration reform activists unlawfully entered the suburban Phoenix campus building, which was only open to ASU students and faculty, and recorded her and her students.

Sen. Sinema, a former social worker, is a lecturer at ASU’s School of Social Work.

"In the 19 years I have been teaching at ASU, I have been committed to creating a safe and intellectually challenging environment for my students," Sinema said. "Yesterday, that environment was breached. My students were unfairly and unlawfully victimized."

Living United for Change in Arizona, also known as LUCHA, posted video of the Sunday encounter on its social media.

The video showed group members chastising Sinema on accusations that she did not adequately support expectations of a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally and has not been supportive enough of President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure proposal.

"We need solutions. The Build Back Better plan has the solutions we need," activists were heard saying in the video. 

Sinema did not say anything to the activists while they filmed her.

LUCHA said in a tweet that its members were forced to confront Sinema at ASU because she has been inaccessible to constituents.

Sinema said in her statement she has met with the group multiple times since she was elected to the Senate.

Both Sinema and fellow Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin have been criticized for not fully backing the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act, saying it’s too expensive. Manchin, of West Virginia, was also confronted by activists over the weekend. People on kayaks approached his boat to yell at him.

Immigration reform advocates were outraged after an effort to add immigration provisions to the infrastructure bill, including a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, was rejected. They believe Sinema’s stance on the infrastructure package makes any immigration provisions unachievable.

Political leaders react

When asked about these incidents, President Joe Biden, whose first year of office could be defined by this package passing, agreed it wasn’t the best strategy.

"I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody ... the only people it doesn’t happen to are people who have Secret Service standing around them," Biden said. "So, it’s -- it’s part of the process."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki sought to emphasize that Biden supports people’s fundamental right to speak up. But in Sinema’s case, boundaries were crossed.

"That’s inappropriate and unacceptable," Psaki said.

Criminal consequences may await activists

Meanwhile, the Arizona State University Police Department have received several 911 calls about the incidents, and they are investigating whether state laws were violated.

"There's actually a couple things that were unlawful. Protests are allowed. That's part of your First Amendment rights, but not in the hallway near the classroom. That actually is unlawful, and yeah, it is illegal to record people where privacy is assumed, such as a bathroom," said Adam Wolfe with ASU Police.

ASU Police officials also say students and staff can access the building in question by swiping a key card, and police are looking into how the activists got inside.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

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