Rep. Cori Bush, Missouri Democrat, honored in a House floor speech a deceased Palestinian-American activist known for heckling police as “pigs” and telling them he prayed for their deaths during the 2014 Ferguson protests.
Ms. Bush spoke “in memory of our brother” Bassem Masri, who died in November 2018 at age 31, praising him as “a Ferguson activist who was with us on the front lines of our uprising for justice following the police murder of Michael Brown Jr.”
“So today we remember Bassem,” she said in her Thursday speech. “We remember his resistance in the face of militarized police occupation, as a St. Louisan and a Palestinian. We lost him to a health crisis, but we remember his words today. Until all our children are safe, we will continue to fight for our rights in Palestine and in Ferguson.”
Masri was known for taunting officers as he livestreamed the unrest that broke out after the 18-year-old Brown was shot and killed in a confrontation with Officer Darren Wilson, who was never charged and ultimately cleared of civil-rights violations by the Obama-era Justice Department.
Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson, whose Legal Insurrection website covered the protests, said that Masri earned notoriety for “his popularization of the phrase during the Ferguson riots ‘Pigs in a Blanket, Fry ‘Em Like Bacon.’”
“Masri was featured in our coverage of the Ferguson riots and how anti-Israel activists tried — with some success — to turn them into anti-Israel events,” said Mr. Jacobson on Legal Insurrection.
News outlets including CNN, Fox2 in St. Louis, the [U.K.] Daily Mail and the Daily Caller also covered Masri’s jeering at police.
Video from Fox2 showed Masri telling officers, “I’m praying for your death and your death and your death and your death,” and, “Coward, straight pig, out here bitch! You gotta go. Your life is in danger, homie.”
“Bassem Masri has made headlines before for his protest tactics and Saturday he appeared to stay true to form in a video in which he chants at police, ‘Pigs in a blanket smell like bacon,’” said the Daily Mail in a post on Dec. 21, 2014.
In an October 2014 interview with Fox2, Masri said, “If the citizen is pissed, you don’t look at the citizen and go, ‘Oh, he’s bad, he’s a terrorist,’ no, you look at the police and be like, ‘How come this man is mad at y’all?’”
Asked how he would respond if someone called him a “coward bitch,” Masri replied, “Hey, they work for me, I don’t work for them. I can say what I want to them.” As for the “praying for your death” comment, Masri said, “That’s emotions.”
In her speech, Ms. Bush said “I remember Bassem putting his life on the line with us.”
“I remember him livestreaming for the whole world to see our struggle,” she said. “I’ll remember our solidarity. And I’ll remember the harassment, the extortion, the brutalization he faced for resisting with us.”
Mr. Jacobson countered that “Cori Bush devoted her speech on the floor of the House not only to bashing Israel, but to praising an activist who wished death and harm on the police.”
“You may not have realized who Bush was praising, but she certainly understood,” he said.
Masri, who had said he planned to run for the state legislature, died after being found unresponsive on a bus in St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.