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What’s Really Happening In America?

Members of a protester group affiliated with NFAC, most carrying firearms, gather to march on July 25, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. The group is marching in response to the killing of Breonna Taylor. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

We continue to lose our minds. This weekend, there was a protest by an armed black militant group, the self-titled Not F*cking Around Coalition, in Louisville, KY. One of these very stable geniuses shot a colleague by accident there as they were marching. The NFAC issued a list of demands yesterday:

When backed up by men with loaded guns, this is mafia stuff. I hope no business owner in Louisville complies. But the fact that Louisville business owners now have to decide whether or not to defy a large group of men with loaded guns is insane.

Did you hear about the black militant group shooting one of their own in a public protest in Louisville this weekend? If it hadn’t been from a friend of mine in Louisville, I wouldn’t have heard about it at all.

At least they can count on police protection, unlike the merchants of Seattle, who received this letter from the city’s police chief:

I’m not sure you’ll be able to read that type. The Chief of Police told business owners that the City Council has banned the cops from using pepper spray and less lethal means of protecting property from violent mobs. She adds that starting this weekend, the police will be on “adjusted deployment,” meaning that they will not intervene to protect property now that the City Council has taken away from them the tools to do so without risking life. On Friday night, though, a federal judge issued an emergency injunction prohibiting the City Council’s rule from going into effect. Good thing, too. From Sunday morning’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Seattle police declared a riot Saturday following large demonstrations in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and deployed flash bangs and pepper spray to try to clear an area near where weeks earlier people had set up an “occupied protest zone” that stretched for several blocks.

Via Twitter, police said they had made more than two dozen arrests for assault on officers, obstruction and failure to disperse. They also said they were “investigating a possible explosive damage” to the walls of the city’s East Precinct police station.

Authorities said rocks, bottles, fireworks and mortars were thrown at officers as they attempted to clear the area over the course of several hours stretching into Saturday night. One officer was hospitalized with a leg injury caused by an explosive.

Earlier, protesters in Seattle broke through a fence where a youth detention facility was being built, with some people setting a fire and damaging a portable trailer, authorities said.

 

The insanity runs deep in Seattle. Independent journalist Christopher Rufo reports:

There’s more; read the entire thread. As Rufo points out, this is not a series of demands made by an outside radical group. These are documents outlining policy from within the government of King County.

This is what happened on Sunday evening there:

No cops.

Meanwhile, mobs in Portland continue their violent assault on the federal courthouse. From the NYT:

Protests in Portland, meanwhile, have continued, with some of the heaviest demonstrations around federal buildings in the city. On Saturday, crowds marched from near the federal courthouse to a hotel several blocks away where federal agents who had been dispatched to the city were thought to be staying.

“Get out of bed with the feds,” the protesters chanted.

Later in the night, thousands of people returned to the federal courthouse. Some threw fireworks at the officers protecting the building, while others worked to break down the fence surrounding it. Just before midnight, federal officers began lobbing tear gas and flash grenades over the fence, dispersing crowds, while the group of mothers who have been a fixture at the protests stood firm with linked arms, protected with gas masks.

Craig Gabriel, an assistant U.S. attorney in Oregon, said at a news conference earlier on Saturday that federal agents had arrested 60 people at protests in Portland and were pursuing charges against 46 of them.

Several federal agents had been injured by fireworks and lasers that protesters shone into their eyes, he said.

As long as people are protesting peacefully, I have no problem with it. But one night last week, they set fire to the Portland federal courthouse. Either we will have law and order in this country, or we will have anarchy.

Last night rioters in Portland breached police lines around the federal courthouse. 

Is there any interest in Portland for enforcing the law and defending institutions of civil order, like the federal courthouse?

I don’t know about you, but I cannot get clear what is happening. I understand that some people in the Pacific Northwest are angry about the feds being there, but if I lived there, and the local law enforcement people were not stopping the violence, I would want the feds there. What is the US Government supposed to do, let Antifa burn down the courthouse? Back when George Wallace and Orval Faubus would not enforce the law regarding integration, the US Government sent in the feds. Is something analogous happening now? Or is this federal overreach? I wish I trusted the news reporting.

Take a look at this Michael Tracey essay. It’s unnerving. Excerpts:

Yes, civil unrest has of course occurred before. But the riots of 2020 exhibited features which belie any easy historical parallel. For one thing, consider their enormous geographic scope. While the most extreme riots in cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and particularly Minneapolis did receive considerable attention — however fleeting, incomplete, and unnecessarily inflected with knee-jerk partisanship — there were also smaller-scale riots in surprisingly far-flung places that you hardly would’ve known about unless you lived in the area, happened to visit, or intentionally sought out what remains of the bare-bones local media coverage. To take just a small sampling: Atlantic City, NJ, Fort Wayne, IN, Green Bay, WI, and Olympia, WA all underwent significant riots, at least per the normal expectations of life in these relatively low-key cities. Did you hear anything about them? Because I hadn’t, and I’m abnormally attuned to daily media coverage. Only because I personally visited did I learn of the damage.

These riots exploded with such intensity, across so many jurisdictions, and within such a contained period of time — roughly speaking, a one-week stretch beginning May 28, the day the chaos in Minneapolis/St. Paul reached a grisly apex — that no other instance of past civil unrest seems quite analogous. Complicating matters is that the riots occurred in tandem with a protest movement now believed to be the largest ever in U.S. history — one which saw demonstrations, vigils, and general rancor extend even into the most unassuming expanses of suburban and rural America.

On some level, you can understand why the ramifications of all this has still yet to be fully processed. The sheer volume of information is overwhelming, for one thing. And coupled with a worsening pandemic, along with the daily antics of Donald Trump, sustaining national attention on any given topic might be impossible. But it’s also clear that the severe ramifications of these riots have been widely ignored — if not consciously obfuscated — by a media class that was near-unanimous in its approval of the accompanying protest movement. That they could have so quickly “moved on,” particularly from the wreckage of Minneapolis/St. Paul — where residents commonly told me that their lives are still in “agony” — is galling.

I’m not a rocket scientist, and it doesn’t take some kind of profound journalistic acuity to walk around riot-affected areas, talk to citizens, record their stories and impressions, take some photos and record some video, and compose some tweets. And yet, I heard from hundreds of people across the United States and world who were shocked that they’d have never been aware of what happened in Minneapolis/St. Paul if not for my dinky little Twitter thread. When I visited a month after the peak of the riots, much of this major American metropolis still lied in ruins. Not that normal life hadn’t mostly resumed; it had. But it’s resumed in the way that war-torn areas configure some ad hoc routine that enables the resumption of semi-normal activity amidst the rubble and despair. In speaking with locals, many of whom have lost their livelihoods and/or had to plead for their children not to be burned alive, it often seems like the extent of the ruination they’ve experienced was barely ever appreciated in the first place.

Tracey theorizes that for several reasons, the left-liberal media is not reporting on what actually happened. He went out and talked to people — including black people — in these towns, and has video up. More:

Seldom acknowledged is that a large segment of black residents in urban areas over a certain age — and particularly recent immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa — are more-or-less small “c” conservative in their social and political attitudes. In general, they are far more outwardly repulsed by riots that ravaged their neighborhoods than the activist media liberals and leftists who so eagerly imbued these riots with some kind of coherent, obviously virtuous political meaning — a meaning that was evidently not apparent to many of the people who actually live in the affected areas. It should be noted that this “small c” conservative reaction by local minority populations doesn’t in any way mean that they would be motivated to support the Republican Party or Donald Trump — as Trump is also widely seen as an agent of chaos in his own right, who exacerbates Culture War animosities rather than alleviates them. But their baseline aversion toward Trump doesn’t negate that their sentiments diverge extremely sharply from self-appointed left/liberal journalists and activists who often claim to speak on their behalf. (For example, they were almost uniformly supportive of the deployment of National Guard to quell the chaos — unlike journalists and activists, who tend to portray the deployment of military forces to urban areas as an unambiguous sign of fascist terror.)

More:

Maybe the media commentators who reflexively glamorized these riots don’t know or don’t care, but the primary victims — meaning those who feared for their safety, suffered severe material losses, and whose lives were upended — are themselves minorities, and were targeted by activist whites.

A deli operated by a Somali man in Minneapolis remained fully boarded up with bullet holes still visible in the partially shattered windows — caused by shots fired from an armed private security force that was summoned to protect businesses during the peak of the riots. (Residents recall with astonishment that Minneapolis Police were essentially nowhere to be found as the destruction unfolded.) According to this man, who like many others did not want to be formally interviewed, the majority of those who wreaked havoc on his establishment were white. Note that scrawled onto the plywood boarding up the Somali man’s shop is the classic anarchist “A” symbol, popular among white left-wing activists.

There are photos. Lots of photos. It’s incredible. It really challenges the narrative that the national media have been putting out. One more quote:

The man, an immigrant from Sierra Leone, said the following: “I grew up in a war zone, and I’ve never seen anything like it.” What does it say that these kinds of experiences have barely impinged on the national consciousness? Despite the incredible amount of destruction that I’ve personally witnessed, it’s only a tiny fraction. If I hadn’t made a point to spend six weeks traveling around the country, I never would’ve gotten this information. Is a “national conversation” warranted here? I don’t know. That’s a ridiculous cliche, anyway. But I do know the enormity of what transpired over these past two months has not been adequately conveyed.

Read it all. Incredible work by Michael Tracey.

What is happening in our country? How can we know for sure?

One more related bit from the weekend. In my city, this happened the other day, in the black part of town:

Neighbors reported more than a dozen people had gathered on their street and were filming a music video Wednesday evening, but once that project devolved into a homicide scene, the group suddenly dispersed in the moments before police arrived.

That left detectives with no witnesses to interview, Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. L’Jean McKneely Jr. said the following afternoon. Officials have released few details about the shooting, which left two people dead.

The victims were identified as D’Andre Mills, 25, and Landon Johnson, 31. Both were transported to the hospital with gunshot injuries but later died.

McKneely said detectives are working to gather more evidence but their investigation is struggling from the start.

“The sad thing is nobody stayed on the scene,” he said. “Zero witnesses.”

Here is a link to a famous video filmed in north Baton Rouge in 2011, by the biggest rap star to come out of the city. A friend of mine who works in that part of the city says that people who don’t live there have no idea what it’s really like — the culture of lawlessness.

As a general matter, I don’t trust the media to tell us the truth about what’s happening. On the other hand, how do I know that I’m not guilty of confirmation bias? I might be. I don’t live there. Like most of you, I depend on what I read online in various news sites, and on social media, to know what’s going on beyond my neighborhood.

What do you think is really happening? Do you trust the media to tell the truth?

UPDATE: No, I do not. Look at this bullsh*t:

“A peaceful demonstration intensified.” Liars. Lying liars.

UPDATE.2:Here is a very important primer for how these demonstrations work. None of it is spontaneous. Follow that thread and click on the links — amazing stuff going on.

UPDATE.3:Here’s a report from the Associated Press by two reporters, each embedded on opposite sides of the Portland clash. Excerpts:

The firework came whizzing over the fence so fast that the agent didn’t have time to move.

It exploded with a boom, leaving his hearing deadened and bloody gashes on both forearms. Stunned, with help from his cohorts, he stripped to his boxer shorts and a black T-shirt so his wounds could be examined and photographed for evidence.

He told his fellow agents he was more worried about his hearing than about the gouges and burns on his arms.

By the end of the night, five other federal agents would be injured, including another who got a concussion when he was hit in the head with a commercial-grade firework. One agent was hospitalized. Several agents have lingering vision problems from the lasers.

After each night of protest, they seize dozens of homemade shields, slingshots, blocks of wood and chunks of concrete.

“My friends have been hit in the head with hammers. I know people who have been shot with fireworks. It’s disgusting,” said the Deputy U.S. Marshal who’s been at the courthouse for weeks. “I’ve never thought I’d have to walk around in my office building wearing a gas mask to go sit in front of my computer.”

The AP reporter inside the federal courthouse tweeted:

More:

UPDATE.4: A Louisville reader writes:

Two quick comments regarding the Louisville portion of your “What’s Really Happening in America” article.
First, one thing the media aren’t reporting is the extent to which the speech delivered by Grandmaster Jay (leader of NFAC) on the steps of Metro Hall amounted to an extended exercise in terroristic threatening. My wife and I watched the live feed of it all afternoon. He threatened murder, arson, and mayhem should the Kentucky AG (a black man) decline to give NFAC the results in demands in the Breonna Taylor case within the next four weeks.
Second, that list of demands you published in connection with NFAC is actually from an unrelated group. The demands came from Occupy Nulu, an illegal protest LMPD broke up before NFAC came to town. Several people, mostly Louisvillians, were arrested. NFAC is not comprised of Louisvillians.
UPDATE.5: A reader writes:

I’m sure you’re being inundated w/ stories like this, but this one that happened in my hometown of Austin, TX over the weekend is especially egregious. As best as I can piece together the facts, here’s what happened.  I’ll be short and to the point, you can verify all of the below w/ searches as you please, and I’ve linked a few sources.

A man named Garrett Foster was by all accounts an activist who’d taken to carrying an AK-47 with him on protests.  On Saturday night, a vehicle turned toward protestors, who surrounded it and began beating on it.  During this altercation, Foster approached the vehicle with his rifle, and was shot.  At some point in the course of the altercation, someone else in the crowd pulled a handgun and fired into the vehicle.  It is not clear exactly when.  Those are the facts so near as I can tell, devoid of my interpretations and opinions, and the rest of what the public knows relies on “eyewitness testimony” primarily from protestors whose accounts, I think it is fair to say, are likely to be biased.
Because a BLM protestor was shot by someone allegedly threatening protestors with their vehicle, this story has gotten heavy national coverage (i.e., it fits the narrative).  See, for example:
But perhaps the most telling version of the story comes from the BBC.  Read the first five paragraphs, and the cited tweet.  How far down do you go in the article before you are informed Mr. Foster carried a rifle and approached the car with it?  It isn’t even mentioned that the car was under assault from the protestors just prior to the shooting:
Every story I linked above approaches this from the “protestor is gunned down by one of those bad people that don’t support BLM” angle.  At most, they acknowledge Foster’s firearm not as a possible reason the situation escalated so quickly, but as a chance to pitch gun control.  Nevermind the violent protestors, armed with everything from rifles to bottle rockets.  The real problem is, as always, the weapon, not its bearer.  And nevermind the countless protestors who have already gunned each other down.  For some reason, this is the one that makes national news.
When right-wing protestors carried AR-15s during protests against the COVID lockdowns, we were told that this was for the purpose of (perhaps racistly) threatening and intimidating those who might disagree.  See, for example (and note it’s from a major publication–read it, as its quite rich given what has been happening since then): https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/guns-protesters/611560/
Keep that in mind when you watch this recent video interview of Foster, just one day before he was killed in Austin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhm-nbr4zhg
Foster openly admits he is carrying a rifle to intimidate others.  Go back and read any of the aforementioned articles.  Did you pick that up from them?  Foster carried a rifle to intimidate anti-protestors.  He was shot, wrongly or rightly, doing just that.  It is hard to feign surprise that this happened to Foster, given his own mindset and the chaotic and violent environment he was operating in.  It’s hard not to assume that, given his own words and choice of carry, Foster was looking for trouble.
One last point.  Every news outlet that you would expect to cover the “protestor gunned down” story has covered it.  The New York Times.  Washington Post.  BBC.  CNN.  These are huge companies with massive reach.  Do me a favor, Rod.  Google two names in two side-by-side tabs.  Garrett Foster, and then Bernell Trammell.  Bernell Trammell is a black man who was gunned down in Milwaukee last Thursday, ostensibly because he was an openly eccentric Trump supporter.  There was gun violence.  There was murder, over a black man’s point of view.  There weren’t even extenuating circumstances like Trammell carrying a rifle and approaching someone threateningly.  This was stone cold murder.  Look at those Google results.  What’s missing, Rod?  Where is the story on CNN, NYT, WaPo?  Only Fox and local stations covered it.
What’s really happening in America?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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