I watch nearly 200 news feeds each day, the Activist Post among them. As a result of reading mostly alternative news websites over the last couple of decades, i've been learning (it's an ongoing process) how to separate the ice cream from the bullshit, as they say, and i'm seeing more and more bullshit on Activist Post. While there was always an acceptable amount of leftist flavoring to Activist Post, i don't recall them being as far to the left as the organization seems to have gravitated in months prior.
This post was prompted by an Activist Post article titled Police Pepper Spraying of 7-year-old Boy at Protest Ruled "Lawful and Proper" (archived version) which was written by a regular contributor, Matt Agorist, who we are are told is a "former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA". Matt also co-founded, edits and writes for The Free Thought Project as well as several other activist and alternative news publications, including MintPress News.
By the way, the boy that was allegedly sprayed was apparently 8, not 7. That inaccuracy aside, i know very well how fallible us humans are, especially when under a great deal of pressure as cops often are, but i think it unlikely that a cop would intentionally pepper spray a little kid. I'm not suggesting it doesn't happen, only that i believe it's unlikely to happen if, for no other reason, parents are generally smart enough to not bring their children to events such as Antifa/BLM protests/riots. What kind of idiotic parent would subject their 8 year old son to a BLM protest knowing, based on previous "protests" (many were flat-out riots with the intention of creating chaos and looting), that the situation could easily turn violent? To this Agorist writes:
While many folks will question the idea of a father bringing a 7-year-old boy to a protest, it speaks to the nature of how peaceful they were, initially.
He's damn right many people will question the actions of this parent and they ought to. That statement ignores the history of violence regarding previous Antifa/BLM protests of which any reasonably educated adult, and certainly every Antifa/BLM member, is certainly aware of and therefore there is no excuses for a parent to bring their 8 year old child to a BLM protest.
Agorist wishes to paint a scene where the protesters were peaceful until they were provoked and attacked by the police, however both the video evidence and the resulting Seattle Office of Police Accountability report tell a much different story. The large number of rocks laying on the street where the police were positioned prior to the pepper spray incident which are clearly visible in the video, as well as aggressive statements and threats directed at the police by the protestors, and which are confirmed and elaborated upon in the Seattle Office of Police Accountability (OPA) report, are the first of several key clues that a), this protest was not initially peaceful and b), that the police appeared to have acted with restraint and within the law.
The BWV showed that, for approximately 40 minutes prior to the pepper spraying, various demonstrators interacted with the officers, some intermittently calling the officers "terrorists" and "racists" and using profanity towards them. For example, one demonstrator identified WO#3 by name, said that he would be "looking for him," and stated: "I’m going to put you motherfuckers out...done." None of the officers responded.
When one reviews the video, it does appear that the police acted with a great deal of restraint despite the insults, threats and rocks that were hurled at them. Their conversations recorded the body camera videos don't seem to reflect the degree rage and the revengeful tone that we see in so many other confrontations with out of control police who blatantly ignore the law.
In the video we hear police commenting at least twice about having rocks thrown at them and it seems the bulk of the conflict started after that point when they discussed whether to initiate an action against the protesters and then did so. In the OPA report we read about "injuries suffered by officers earlier from projectiles".
At approximately 3:00 p.m., demonstrators were gathered in the vicinity of Fourth Avenue and Pine Street. Officers created a police line across the street and were facing the demonstrators. BWV [body worn video] captured discussions between a Lieutenant and two Sergeants – NE#1 and SGT#1. The Lieutenant noted that, given injuries suffered by officers earlier from projectiles, the demonstration occurring in the immediate vicinity was going to be declared an "unlawful assembly."
At approximately 3:10 p.m., a man on the right side of the line (the "Arrestee") began yelling at the officers, accusing them of targeting him. Other demonstrators tried to calm him down and told him not to give the officers a "reason." WO#2’s BWV showed him tell SGT#1 that the Arrestee had tried to steal his pepper spray earlier that day. WO#2 said that there was probable cause and SGT#1 agreed that the officers could effectuate the arrest. WO#2 notified other officers on the line about the imminent arrest and, around one minute later, grabbed the Arrestee and pulled him towards the officers’ side of the line. He and other officers took the Arrestee into custody.
The second paragraph again indicates that the protest was not initially peaceful as Agorist claims. Agorist omits many important details in his article, including mentioning evidence which suggests that one of the "peaceful" protesters attempted to steal a canister of pepper spray from one of the officers.
Then of course there is the question of whether the police intentionally sprayed the boy after they decided to effect an arrest, though from the video that i've seen it isn't apparent that any child was sprayed, much less intentionally, yet Agorist, who obviously watched the video, puts a very different spin on the event.
According to the report, the reason for justifying the pepper spraying of the boy is that it wasn't directly aimed at him. Police claim that the boy was "inadvertently" hit when they sprayed a woman nearby who allegedly grabbed an officer's baton and yelled, "Don't push me, you move back," as police tried to move a line of protesters standing in Westlake Plaza.
Here Agorist himself states that the boy was sprayed inadvertently according to the report and he offers no evidence to challenge this. Indeed both the report and the video indicate that the boy was not targeted, yet Agorist is clearly implying that the police acted unethically and/or unlawfully by intentionally targeting the kid, all without providing any evidence to support his implication. I think it safe to say that he further implies that because there is a history of police violence, therefore they must have acted inappropriately in this case as well. Guilty by association i suppose.
In yet another bit of shoddy journalism, Agorist writes that "After the video of the child getting hit with the pepper spray was posted online, the department received over 13,000 complaints over this single incident forcing an OPA review.", failing to point out that nearly every one of these complaints were from people who saw the video on social media, were not first-hand witnesses to the event and, like myself (and apparently Matt Agorist), didn't see any child being pepper sprayed in the video. The OPA report features only one first-hand witness who stated that one of the officers sprayed the boy "maliciously", implying intent, however this witness refused to be interviewed even after being offered anonymity according to the report.
The video compilation referenced by Agorist lacks context and it was edited to alter the timeline of events. The video begins toward the end of the event where a crying child is shown having what appears to be milk poured over their face, a common practice used to dilute the effects of pepper spray. It isn't obvious whether the child is male or female, but the kid clearly appears to be white and possibly female, yet the adult who claims that his 8 year old son was pepper sprayed is black.
The report concludes, in part, with the following:
As a threshold matter, the BWV clearly established that, contrary to the popular narrative surrounding this case, the Child was not individually targeted with pepper spray by an SPD officer. The BWV also conclusively disproved some of the assertions attributed to the Father by The Independent and other media sources, including showing that he was not praying in the more than 30 minutes prior to the incident and that the force did not come out of "nowhere." Instead, what the BWV showed was that, at the time Subject #1 began pushing into the line, the Father quickly moved from his position away from the disturbance towards her so that he was situated immediately behind her with the Child to his front right side facing the police line. NE#1 pepper sprayed directly at Subject #1 and, when he did so, she ducked and turned around. It appears that, at this point, a quantity of pepper spray affected the Father and the Child. When NE#1 pepper sprayed Subject #1, she was in his immediate vicinity and neither the Father nor the Child could be seen from his vantage point. NE#1 denied seeing them and, based on a review of the video, his account is supported by the evidence. The Child simply was not visible on NE#1’s BWV. Moreover, OPA’s review indicated that, at the time of the force, the Child was not visible on the BWV of any of the officers, except for WO#5 who was the further away and had the clearest perspective of what occurred.
Whether intentionally or not, and there's little doubt in my mind that it was absolutely intentional, Agorist and Activist Post are inciting further division and violence by conflating this event for political purposes. There is also a slim possibility that this incident was staged by the protesters for the same reason and although this is pure speculation, it has certainly been used for political reasons. While there is certainly reason to suspect the police may have acted unlawfully, both the video and the OPA report do not seem to offer any evidence to support such a conclusion.