Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Video Shows Black Anti-Lockdown Protester Violently Battered by Angry Fresno City Councilman

Picture the headline: Black protester shoved on a stairway by city councilman. What would be your immediate thoughts?
There are some assumptions you probably make here. Most of them are probably false.
The Fresno, California, councilman is a Democrat, although all city council seats in Fresno are nonpartisan. Miguel Arias, who assumed office in 2019, was endorsed by The Fresno Bee, citing his “wealth of personal and professional experience.”
The protesters were conservative, looking to confront Arias about the fact that Fresno’s city council has continued to support Mayor Lee Brand’s shelter-in-place order. They were led by Ben Bergquam, an African-American conservative who organized the Freedom Rally outside of Fresno’s city hall last week protesting the order, which was recently extended until May 31.
On Tuesday afternoon, according to Fresno police Lt. Anthony DeWall, the group identified themselves as “independent media” and were looking to conduct an interview with Arias about business closures caused by the coronavirus.
This is what transpired, instead:
A scuffle between Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias and conservative activist Ben Bergquam was caught on camera earlier today.
Police officers are now being placed outside the homes of other councilmembers as a precaution.

(Video: James H.)
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The first person shoved by Arias is the interviewer. As Bergquam continues filming him with his phone, Arias slaps his hand.
An unknown voice yells that what Arias is doing is assault. Bergquam, meanwhile, said that his father was a lawyer. Clearly unimpressed with that, Arias shoves Bergquam twice.
A scuffle between Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias and conservative activist Ben Bergquam was caught on camera earlier today.
Police officers are now being placed outside the homes of other councilmembers as a precaution.

(Video: James H.)
263 people are talking about this
The councilman, who’s president of the city council, claimed the protesters were trying to force their way inside his apartment, where his children were at the time, according to The Bee.
“This is over the top,” Arias said. “This is not the way you engage in civil discourse.”
It’s worth noting that the video doesn’t show the protesters trying to get inside his residence or making any sorts of threats.
Both Arias and the protesters called police to Arias’ home. Thankfully, the councilman is the one facing misdemeanor battery charges — three of them in total. He’ll have a court date in about three months, which is standard procedure.
On Wednesday, Arias released a statement via social media essentially blaming the people he shoved for inciting threats against him:
In the statement, he said that his home was “violated by a dozen out-of-town individuals led by Sanger resident Ben Bergquam, a self-identified member of the Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a racist hate group.”

“Since this incident, I have received numerous calls from outside the City and State, making additional threats against my family and I, requiring me to take additional precautions for our safety,” he said.
“At the same time, I have received overwhelming support from hundreds of City residents and community leaders from all political ideologies expressing support and concern for our family.”
Councilman Luis Chavez put a finer point on it.
“As a councilmember that has been publicly threatened before, I take these threats very seriously and that’s why I have a concealed carry weapons permit,” Chavez said. “I will not tolerate anyone threatening me or my family.”
Now, is this to say confronting a city councilman at his home is a winning strategy? No. Even the one council member who was against the shelter-in-place order, Garry Bredefeld, disagreed with the protesters.
“I can’t even begin to express the outrage I feel regarding this incident,” Bredefeld said on Facebook.
“This is completely unacceptable and should never happen. While we can have disagreements politically and express different points of view, it completely crosses the line of safety, decency, and respect of personal and family boundaries. If any crimes were committed by these individuals, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This disturbing and outrageous incident must never, ever happen again!”
In fact, had Arias not attacked the protesters, this video would probably be seized upon by the media the same way the open-carry protest in Michigan was.
However, it was a protest within their rights and it was on an issue politicians seem unwilling to redress.
These are people who want to get back to work, to get back to some semblance of their lives. Yes, they may have political opinions, some of which are disagreeable to most conservatives.  However, they’re being told they can’t get back to those lives by People Who Know Better, people who don’t particularly want to answer to activists who think it’s time to open up.
The great irony here, too, is that the two principals are minorities. While this confrontation is coming from a very limited sample set, consider headline/subheadline combos like this one from Vox: “The whiteness of anti-lockdown protests: How ignorance, privilege, and anti-black racism is driving white protesters to risk their lives.”
“It’s easy to dismiss the anti-lockdown protests as business per usual in the land of right-wing Trumpism. But there is a much larger issue at play that existed long before President Donald Trump took office, and that he has learned to artfully exploit,” Maia Niguel Hoskin wrote in the April 25 piece.
“It’s why it’s not surprising that in some areas, protesters waved Confederate flags or held signs that read, ‘Give me liberty or give me Covid-19.’ The protests are symptomatic of the profound presence of whiteness and white supremacy in America.”
To be fair, Confederate flags in Michigan are a bit of a stretch, although this hardly seems to have been a widespread thing at one of America’s most prominent anti-lockdown rallies.
I’m curious how Patrick Henry is “symptomatic of the profound presence of whiteness and white supremacy in America,” but OK. This isn’t the only treatment like this that we’ve seen.
There isn’t any particular after-school special lesson that we can draw from this confrontation, so if we cover it at all, we’re probably all going to fall back on the fact that Bergquam was a Proud Boy and leave it at that. Without that, it doesn’t conform to any of our narratives

Whatever the case, no matter what your feelings are on this protest, there should be an overwhelming understanding that councilmen shouldn’t resort to physical violence. Unless he can provide evidence they were trying to enter his home, he should be held to account for it.

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