If this is how ex-Salem city councilor Daniel Benjamin is working on rehabilitating his image after being unanimously censured by the Ciry Council for racial insensitivity on Facebook, he needs to rethink his approach.
Below is a video of a recent pro-Trump rally at the Capitol that drew counter-protesters to a Stand For Love rally. A Statesman Journal story, "Trump rally, protests turn violent at State Capitol," describes what's shown in the video: Cameron Whitten, a Portland activist, being threatened, cursed at, and generally treated nastily by the Trump supporters.
Cameron Whitten, 25, live streamed the environment leading up to the fight, but captured his own altercation with Trump supporters who falsely accused him of being the leader of Portland's Resistance, Micah Rhodes, who was accused of sex abuse of a minor.
"They immediately assumed that I was that person," Whitten said. "The group circled around me and called me a child rapist and they were threatening me."
Whitten's live stream shows a masked man wearing camouflage garb screaming. The confrontation got ugly and included threats and expletives.
"Someone saw me as a black person, confused me for another black person, and now I'm a target," Whitten said.
Daniel Benjamin appears in the background of the video at about the 2:50 mark. Here's some screenshots I took.
Now, Benjamin had every right to be at the pro-Trump rally.
But standing by within close earshot and eyeshot while the masked Trump supporter curses at Cameron Whitten, threatening him with violence, while Whitten calmly keeps asking "What's my name?" as the masked guy keeps mistakenly calling him a child molester, is disturbing.
Here's how the person who sent me a link to the video described the situation.
I compare this to the posting of a video of cars running over black protesters to your Facebook page. [Which is what Benjamin did that led to his being censured by the City Council.]
Here Benjamin is a witness to the terrible, violent harassment of a black man who (very foolishly, but without malice, I think) was trying to engage with Trump supporters. I think that makes him a participant. In a way this is worse than what Benjamin did to cause his forced resignation from the City Council.
About this whole episode, most of the commentary is focused on the Black Bloc protesters (including Tom Andersen’s in the paper today). But they told the organizer of the Stand for Love rally that their main purpose in being there was to protect our rally from the March4Trump participants whose original plan, I understand was to march in front of the Capitol where we were having our rally. They never did that, thankfully.
Should the Black Bloc protesters have gone down to confront and disrupt the March4Trump? No. Should they have burned an American flag? No.
Those two things were provocative and ill-advised. But it needs to be emphasized, I think, that it was the March4Trump people who sent two people to the hospital and had one of their members, a felon, arrested for having a gun. Their behavior was far worse than the Black Bloc.
A story in The Skanner, "Black Man Assaulted at Trump March in Salem, Ignored by Police," provides another perspective on what happened. Excerpts:
Portland activist Cameron Whitten was met with racist remarks, physical aggression and death threats during the pro-Trump rally, “Oregon Make America Great Again March” in Salem on Saturday. Onsite police did little to mitigate the hostile incident.
Whitten, the 25-year-old executive director of the nonprofit Know Your City – which provides educational and arts programs to youth and adults in Portland – attended the rally on March 25 because, he explained in a Facebook post about the encounter, “I personally believe there is value in talking to everyone. Even people you disagree with.”
Whitten had hoped to engage in civil discourse on the Salem Capitol grounds, but was instead surrounded by several masked members of a patriot movement group. One of the men loudly and aggressively threatened Whitten’s physical safety, while accusing him of being a child molester.
“I made the grave mistake of thinking that I could stand peacefully at the March4Trump rally without becoming a target of threats and hostility,” wrote Whitten in a letter addressed to Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett and Salem City Council. “Because I am a Black man, a White Trump supporter saw me and loudly accused me of being a child sex predator, because they thought I looked like a different Black man who has been accused of such crimes in the media.”
...Whitten is asking local government to view his livestream footage to ascertain that he was not conducting himself in a disrespectful or disruptive manner; and that the Salem police ignored his concerns for safety and did not wear any visible identification, making it impossible for Whitten to direct these concerns to any individual.
...Whitten hopes his testimony will be considered by the Salem City Council and local law enforcement as verified proof of racial profiling.
In case you're wondering how much Cameron Whitten looks like Micah Rhodes, who's been accused of sex abuse of a minor, the answer is... not much. But apparently all black people look alike to racists and thugs.