I’m not sure I agree that this encounter was premeditated on the part of Nathan Phillips and his colleagues. He may very well have entered into the crowd for the purpose of distracting their attention away from the Black Hebrew Israelites. That being said, the media dropped the ball in a big way (for the second time this past week). The original narrative was nearly 100% false.
For me, though, the big takeaway is how so many so-called “progressives” were so quick to abandon their principles when this story broke. I’ve been following criminal justice reform for a long time. I’ve been enthusiastically supportive of efforts to introduce more mercy and forgiveness into the juvenile justice system. I echoed those same sentiments in a piece I wrote about Kyler Murray, the college QB who landed in hot water after some homophobic tweets he made in high school coincidentally “resurfaced” on the night he won the Heisman. When I post about that stuff on Twitter or Medium, I get DMs from progressives who agree that we need to stop treating our youth like irredeemable monsters whenever they screw up. I see lots of left-wing folks talking about this subject all the time, their words dripping with empathy for the hordes of troubled young people who are constantly being written off as lost causes by mainstream society.
Compare that to what happened in this case. Kathy Griffin is on Twitter calling for these kids to be doxxed. Reza Aslan said that the kid at the center of this controversy has a “punchable face,” while Bakari Sellers tweeted out that the same kid “can also be punched in the face.” There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of similar tweets and social media posts from other left-wing individuals advocating similar measures (doxxing, violence, calling up colleges and advising them to refuse to enroll any of the kids who were at this event).
It seems apparent to me that, for those people, it wasn’t the kids’ behavior that made them guilty — it was the MAGA hats. The conclusion? In the eyes of some people, once you put on that hat, you deserve whatever you get, even if you’re just a kid. And I have no interest in being an “ally” to anyone who feels that way. These are kids, and guilty or not, I do not believe they are irredeemable, nor do I believe that they deserve to have violence visited upon them or their families.