A young, dark-skinned man danced a little too close to an NYPD officer and paddy-wagon on Christmas Eve. He ended up swarmed by four officers, then throttled and thrown to the ground for his efforts.
In a video making the viral rounds, Alexander BOK, whose Youtube page describes him as
"Your favorite prankster…ready to deliver the best pranks God ever seen coming straight from my heart to you ;)," informs the viewer that he is participating in one of the "Dance dares" Ellen Degeneres asked members of her audience to perform. The gist is you walk up behind a stranger, dance, and videotape it for the potential glory of having the clip appear on Ellen's daytime talk show.
BOK decided to try this on a group of cops at a crosswalk in Midtown Manhattan mere days after 2 NYPD officers were assassinated. In the video, he can be seen approaching and stopping a few feet behind one officer standing in front of a police van.
In a span of 10 seconds, a pedestrian crossing the street bumps into him, seemingly annoyed by his presence as an obstacle but otherwise not paying attention. Then the officer in the driver's seat of the van gets out of the vehicle while the officer nearest to BOK turns around and aggressively confronts him asking, "What's wrong with you? What the fuck are you doing behind me? What are you dancing in the street for?" The officer grabs BOK by the shirt, pushes him against the van and searches him. After determining they have no cause to arrest him, an officer tosses BOK aside and he falls to the ground.
Despite the clickbait nature of a harmless dancing goofball being manhandled and assaulted by a group of heavily armed agents of the state, this video isn't as simple as it may seem.
It is understandable that NYPD officers are on edge in the days after two of their own were ambushed by a deranged man who promised retribution for several recent killings of unarmed black men by police. Still, if the murder of two officers in three years is cause for the NYPD to act as if they're on a "wartime" footing, what would be the proper reaction for unarmed, law-abiding black men who encounter police in apartment buildings?
It is also reasonable to question whether these particular officers' reactions to BOK would be appreciably different had the killings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu not taken place, or if BOK were white or a woman. Ultimately, these officers were jumpy and reacted violently and aggressively to something that is unusual and perhaps overly familiar in a big city atmosphere, but a mere moment of consideration would have demonstrated was not a mortal threat.
But BOK seems to want to have it both ways. He portrays himself as a pious, emoticon-using prankster so innocent he could have never imagined such an intense reaction from his prankees. Yet he is also an ambitious viral video performer with the motto "DREAM BIG LIVE BIG BECOME LEGEND" who edited the police run-in portion of his video with a grim piano theme evoking a hero's downfall.
Yes, BOK has every right to try an "Ellen Dance Dare" any day of the year, even Christmas Eve in Midtown Manhattan, even days after the double police murder in Brooklyn, and not be treated like a potential assassin. Yet there is something insensitive and narcissistic about the video, almost as if the entire point of the video was to create buzz for BOK, rather than engage in political protest.
You can judge for yourself (and pad BOK's view count) by watching the "Full" video below: