PENSACOLA — Congressman Matt Gaetz was not, as some have implied, the first American politician to fall victim to a British fad known as “milkshaking.”
Gaetz had a red sport’s drink — think Gatorade or Powerade — thrown on him Saturday as he exited Pensacola’s Brew Ha Ha restaurant. Amanda Kondrat’yev, the woman charged with battery for tossing the liquid, was carrying a sign expressing an anti-National Rifle Association slogan.
A restaurant employee got a photo of Kondrat’yev carrying a sign that stated “Gaetz Wipe Off the Blood From Your Hand A+ Rating- NRA Save Our Kids Vote Gaetz Out in 2020.” The photo, with a statement condemning the act, was posted briefly Monday on the eatery’s Facebook page.
An arrest report filed by the Pensacola Police Department indicates two witnesses identified Kondrat'yev as the person who threw the "red liquid" at Gaetz. There was also video evidence collected.
Kondrat'yev was booked in the Escambia County jail at shortly before 3 p.m., Saturday and later released on a $1,000 bond.
The liquid assault “wasn’t something that hurt me or concerned me greatly,” Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said Monday. He added, though, that he does intend to see Kondrat’yev prosecuted.
“If you allow someone to throw a drink at me and hit me, then the next time they might throw something else, maybe a rock, and hit a member of my staff. And the next thing I know somebody could throw something at a supporter or a citizen,” he said. “We take it very seriously because we don’t want this to become the norm at any event we host.”
Gaetz was leaving the Pensacola event when he was doused in red liquid. It was his second of three events of the day and he said he had to attend the third, in DeFuniak Springs, while wearing the stained shirt.
“I forgot to bring a change of shirts. I usually do but I forgot this trip, so I just kind of dabbed it off and went and continued up in DeFuniak,” he said.
Milkshakes appear just in the last few months to have become the food of choice to toss on English political figures.
The Atlantic did a story on "milkshaking" that ran May 27, a week after Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party leader, found himself covered in frozen milk.
“Here in the United Kingdom, milkshakes have replaced eggs as the protest projectile of choice,” the article said. "Activists have poured milkshakes on right-wing candidates for the European Parliament.”
Several news publications claimed the assault on Gaetz was proof positive that the British political statement had made its way across the ocean. Gaetz was quick Monday morning to put that rumor to bed.
“It was red Powerade,” he said.
Kondrat’yev appears to qualify as a political activist. The 35-year-old ran briefly against Gaetz in 2016 when he sought to fill the U.S. House seat vacated by Jeff Miller.
She was also a petitioner in a lawsuit calling for removal of a Christian cross that has stood for years at Bayview Park in Pensacola.
Before she bowed out of the race for Congress, Kondrat’yev, a Democrat, agreed to debate Gaetz over the cross issue. That debate never happened.
Kondrat'yev was among several carrying signs outside of the Brew Ha Ha as Gaetz spoke inside to a crowd he estimated at about 250 people.
Signs were not allowed inside the venue, and Gaetz said the sign carriers waited outside and grew boisterous as he was leaving.
“When I was on the way out the chanting began to increase in volume from the sign people and then I was hit with this fruity drink,” he said.
Following her arrest, Kondrat’yev created a funding site on her Facebook page.
“Not sure how much court stuff costs but I was charged with battery today for allegedly milkshaking Congressman Matt Gaetz,” the posted plea for funds to pay court costs stated.
The fundraising effort, with an established goal of $2,000, had raised $1,231 by 2 p.m. Monday afternoon.