Many comedians are not pleased. Last November, Chris Rock told Frank Rich
Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.
Gilbert Gottfried the previous June had maintained "I'm not suggesting that apologies aren't occasionally necessary. But as a nation we've gotten apology crazy lately. Anything that even slightly upsets our gentle sensibilities is grounds for demanding amends."
But just this past March, iconoclastic Bill Maher, who once hosted the aptly named "Politically Incorrect" and who (especially of late) has been outspoken in advocating freedom of expression, put it best when he asked "what is the point of attacking people who are 95 percent on your side?"
As it happens, that applies neatly to an event (video below) of this past weekend in which
A Seattle speech by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was pre-empted in a chaotic confrontation Saturday afternoon with a pair of Black Lives Matter protesters, who took the stage and refused to let him speak.
The Vermont senator, who has drawn huge crowds around the country, was to be the star attraction and final speaker for a rally at Westlake Park to celebrate the 80th birthday of Social Security and the success of other anti-poverty programs.
You might bringing the curtain down on a rally intended to honor the greatest anti-poverty program in American history is self-defeating and passing strange, if not outright bizarre, for a group which bills itself "Black Lives Matter." However, Sanders'
afternoon plans were scuttled by protesters determined to turn attention instead to Sunday’s anniversary of the shooting by a white police officer of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo.
At Westlake, Sanders was just starting to address the crowd, thanking Seattle for being “one of the most progressive cities in the United States of America.
That’s as far as he got before two women walked onstage and grabbed the microphone.
“If you do not listen … your event will be shut down,” one of the protesters told organizers, who offered to let them speak after Sanders. After a back and forth with the screaming protesters, organizers relented and said the demonstrators could go first.
Some in the largely white audience booed and chanted for protesters to let the senator talk. A few yelled for police to make arrests.
Sadly for the quaint notion of free expression, those few were not enough as
Marissa Johnson, one of the protesters, shot back, “I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is, filled with its progressives, but you did it for me,” accusing the audience of “white supremacist liberalism.” She cited Seattle’s own police problems, including an ongoing Justice Department consent decree over use of force.
The activists demanded 4½ minutes of silence in memory of Brown, to symbolize the 4½ hours his body lay on a Ferguson street. While rally organizers raised their hands in support, some in the crowd yelled profanities.
After the few minutes of silence, the protesters said they wanted to confront Sanders for failing to address their concerns when he was similarly interrupted at a town hall for liberal activists in Phoenix last month. Johnson beckoned Sanders to stand closer as she spoke — he refused.
The Westlake protesters would not let Sanders take the microphone, prompting rally organizer Robby Stern to say the event was over because the demonstrators were determined to stop it.
The man shouted down by Black Lives Matter would later in the day characteristically maintain "When we stand together, when black and white stand together, when gay and straight stand together, when women and men stand together... when we stand together, there is nothing, nothing, that we cannot accomplish.” The city condemned by Black Lives Matter is the one which earlier this year increased its minimum wage to $15 an hour, via increments. The event interrupted by Black Lives Matter was established to celebrate the program which has lifted tens of millions of Americans, mostly elderly and some disabled, out of poverty since it was established 85 years ago.
Responding to the disruption, a black Sanders supporter posted on YouTube a video (below) in which
You speak for all of us,” he said. “You need to stay on-message. Often the loudest voices in society don’t come from the largest population. It comes from, sometimes, the smallest groups, the people who are the most angry.”
“I don’t want you to fall in the trap that the media has set,” he said. “I saw an article that said, ‘Can Bernie Sanders court #BlackLivesMatter?'”
“Fuck, no,” he said. “Bernie Sanders is going to court and appeal to more than just those three people on that stage.”
“If you gave a shit about black lives,” he said to the protesters, “why the hell would you be shooting down the one person that’s trying to help?”
Why indeed, but probably because the protesters knew the Sanders campaign would have to capitulate, which it already has begun doing. Bust up a Republican rally, and the crowd would have begun chanting "USA, USA," which in that rare instance would have been entirely justified and have permitted the speaker to continue. However, had the police intervened at the rally of the Democratic underdog Sanders, events would have conspired effectively to end his campaign.
These sorts of things happen and continue to happen when good- or at least influential- people fail to speak up. There is, rumor has it, a black President. Rumor has it also that he followed by eight years the administration of The First Black President, whose wife is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for President. None of these three has had the backbone to stand up and say: enough.
The Sister Souljah moment was relatively easy. This would be difficult, but far more important, and it should not be left up to comedians such as Maher. If there is no dissent from the political class, it would be foolish for this wing of Black Lives Matter to stop at disrupting the campaign of a guy who is not going to be nominated for President and who will not be lodging a national campaign beyond July 27, 2016. It will expand, with ramifications uncertain and potentially volatile.
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