WASHINGTON - Betsy DeVos was blocked and physically bumped by demonstrators during her first visit as education secretary to a public school in Washington D.C. Friday morning.
President Donald Trump's new cabinet appointee was met with protests and intimidation just after 10 a.m. as dozens of protesters tried to stop her from entering Jefferson Academy in Southwest Washington.
The vehicle DeVos was riding in had been turned away in the back of the school building, and when DeVos was seen attempting to use a stairwell to enter the school through a back entrance, two protesters ran in front of her to block her path, shoved her, which then led her to return to her car.
Watch video of the incident here:
There was a large police presence at the school for the education secretary’s visit. Police said they arrested a man who was the chief instigator of the protesters that had physically blocked DeVos from entering the building.
Despite the efforts of some protesters to stop the visit, the education secretary eventually went to another entrance and made it inside the school to meet with school administrators, teachers, students as well as D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson.
DeVos, 59, is a billionaire Republican donor who spent more than two decades promoting charter schools and school voucher programs in her home state of Michigan and other states. She faced fierce opposition during the confirmation process from teachers unions who fear that she intends to defund traditional public schools.
Two Republican senators from rural states that rely heavily on public schools opposed the nomination and Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a tie-breaking vote on Tuesday.
About 50 other protesters had gathered outside the school, holding signs and shouting, "We fight back!"
The Washington Teachers’ Union and other community activists have said they are deeply concerned about DeVos’ positions on public education.
“We just came because we wanted to protest the decision of Ms. Betsy [DeVos] to come to this school and take this photo opportunity,” said D.C. resident Tiffany Flowers. “We don’t agree with her principles. We don’t think she is the right pick for the job. We just want to let her know.”
“My hope is that she will support public schools in our country despite her past,” said Betsy Wolf, a school parent and former teacher.
"I respect peaceful protest, and I will not be deterred in executing the vital mission of the Department of Education," DeVos said in a statement. "No school door in America will be blocked from those seeking to help our nation's school children."
D.C.’s Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted about the incident after it occurred:
DC has the fastest growing urban school district in America. We welcome @BetsyDeVos & anyone who wants to learn more about our schools.— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) February 10, 2017
This bears repeating: Protest - peaceful protest - is fine but we do not condone violence towards anyone. (1/2)— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) February 10, 2017
Information from the Associated Press used in this story.