Following yet another horrific and unjust police shooting of a black man—this time the victim is 29-year-old Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin—protesters have again taken to the streets.
In D.C., these protests took the form of bands of Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists roaming the streets and harassing random white people seated outdoors at restaurants. Videos of several of the encounters appeared all over social media on Tuesday. These are short clips, and it's not possible to say for certain what happened immediately before and after the recordings. Context often matters in viral videos.
But by reviewing all the videos, and eyewitness testimony, it's possible to arrive at a general understanding of what was going on, and it's not good. Chanting "silence is violence," the protesters demanded that people they encountered in the street, as well as the patrons of various restaurants, raise their hands to indicate solidarity with the goals of BLM. Many complied, but some did not. One white woman who declined to raise her hand became surrounded by protesters, most of whom were also white. These protesters hovered over her and even got in her face, as evidenced by the video:
— RawsMedia™ (@rawsmedia) August 25, 2020
Other videos also show direct, face-to-face confrontations between protesters and random white people.
This is the Evergreen College model of social justice deployed off-campus. Readers may recall the infamous 2017 episode involving a progressive professor who was forced to leave campus after drawing the ire of activist students. These students then essentially physically cornered the president of the college and refused to let him leave a meeting until he accepted their demands. In 2020, these theatrics are by no means confined to a college campus: Last night, activists walked the streets trying to bully people into submission. It's a poorly considered tactic almost perfectly calibrated to breed resentment toward the very cause it purports to serve: racial justice.
It's also wrong on its own terms. The U.S. is still in the throes of a deadly pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 170,000 people. In situations where a lot of people are shouting in each other's faces, the virus is likely to spread more easily. Policymakers, health officials, and the media are keen to remind everyone of this when the topic of discussion is school re-openings, social gatherings, and even funerals. The protesters, though, have often enjoyed an exemption from social distance shaming.
Two years ago, there was a debate about whether restaurants were morally justified in asking Trump administration officials to leave their establishments. It's a distressing sign of the times that such an act of public confrontation looks positively tame compared with what D.C. BLM activists did yesterday. A movement that deploys large crowds to confront, intimidate, and provoke random small businesses and their customers will quickly and rightly find itself demonized by the public.