Is ‘Bullying’ Okay if You Say You’re a Protester?

Bullies scream at outdoor diner

What some people consider to be protesting, others experience as bullying or worse (i.e., domestic terrorism).

Some of the residents of a quiet residential neighborhood in Portland, OR, were likely unsettled recently when they were visited one night by hundreds of so-called “protesters.”

At least, “protesters” is what The New York Times called them.

They were supposedly protesting police brutality and seeking support from residents of the largely white residential neighborhood.

But they looked more like an invading army. They were uniformly clad in black garb, wearing motorcycle helmets and masks that hid their faces. Some wore body armor. Others had tool belts containing an array of ominous looking paraphernalia.

The NYT reports the “protesters” stopped at a house where an American flag was on display in the yard. They demanded the owner take the flag down and, when he refused, threatened to return later and burn down the house.

By calling them protesters, the NYT accorded them a legitimacy that many legitimate protesters of police brutality would not.

I have written about the topic of bullying for many years, arguing that workers have a right to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace. Now the debate seems to be whether it is okay for a “protester” to threaten to burn down your house because you are displaying the American flag.

Meanwhile, “protesters” in Pittsburgh, PA, recently screamed “f**k the white people that built the system” at elderly outdoor diners before downing their drinks, smashing glasses and forcing other patrons to leave the restaurant.

A young man recently smacked an older woman in the face because she was wearing a MAGA hat.

A student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications , Rae’Lee Klein, says she lost her position as campus radio station manager because she tweeted a link to a New York Post story about Jacob Blake, a black man who was shot and paralyzed by police in Kenosha, WI. The Post reported that Blake’s police warrant states he sexually assaulted his wife and was stealing her car.

So a major university allows a journalism student to be silence for tweeting a link to a news story in a mainstream U.S. newspaper… because it supposedly made some ASU students feel uncomfortable?

Bullying is unacceptable in school playgrounds and in the workplace. It is also unacceptable outside restaurants, in largely white residential housing developments, and at major state universities.

The anti-police brutality movement ultimately argues that all people, regardless of race, have a right to be treated with respect and dignity in their interactions with police. This important message is undermined by the use of the tactics the protesters are protesting – threats of violence and actual violence.

Contrary to the NYT, the “protesters” who threatened to burn down the Portland house with the American flag were bullies and thugs. Calling them protesters does not change this, while doing grievous damage to the actual protest movement.

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