Police arrested two marijuana legalization advocates Tuesday outside Rep. Andy Harris’ office, and the Baltimore County congressman said he bruised his wrist during an encounter with the activists that “demonstrates the problem with political discourse today.”
The Maryland Marijuana Justice protesters — Rachel Donlan, 46, of Washington, and Kris Furnish, 28, of Salisbury — were demonstrating around 12:15 p.m. against Harris’ opposition to legalization efforts, according to Adam Eidinger, a well-known legalization advocate who helped organize the action on Capitol Hill.
“They tried to talk to the congressman,” Eidinger said. “He ran past them and slammed the door in their face. He got on the other side of the door and was pushing the door shut. He caught Rachel’s foot in the door. She screamed. She was in a lot of pain.”
Harris, the lone Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation, offered a differing account.
The congressman’s office said in an email that the protesters “sought to forcibly enter the office” as Harris entered through a private door, “bruising his wrist as they tried to force the door open.”
According to a video Eidinger posted on social media, Donlan and Furnish then lay down outside the office and began smoking marijuana, and U.S. Capitol Police arrested them.
Police said the protesters were charged with consumption of marijuana in a prohibited public space. It is illegal to smoke marijuana on federal property in Washington.
The protesters “were observed to display and light marijuana cigarettes,” according to a police statement. It said police had “responded to a report of unlawful demonstration activity” and that the officers “were informed that the demonstrators were attempting to enter the office.”
Eidinger moved from Washington to the Eastern Shore to try to defeat Harris, who in 2014 worked to block full legalization of the drug in the District of Columbia.
Harris’ office did not make the congressman available for an interview.
In a written statement, he said: “Today’s aggression by protesters who disagree with my position on the legalization of recreational marijuana demonstrates the problem with political discourse today. We all must agree to have a civilized debate when disagreement occurs.
“I reject the recent comments of one of my House colleagues who encouraged harassment of political opponents, saying, ‘You get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.’ As Rep. Steve Scalise understands all too well and tweeted today — 'Assaulting anyone because you disagree with them is NEVER acceptable.’ ”
Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, made the statement about pushback in June. It followed instances in which Trump administration officials were confronted by protesters.
Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was shot in the hip in 2017 by a gunman who opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game. He returned to Congress later that year.
“This is outrageous,” Scalise, the House majority whip, tweeted Tuesday. “I'm glad @RepAndyHarrisMD is okay.”
Maryland Marijuana Justice had announced the demonstration on Twitter to highlight the congressman’s “callous attitude towards DC and Maryland’s opioid epidemic.”
The group had a name for the event. It called it an “overdose.”