In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings, I've heard a lot of lame talk, sometimes from very intelligent people, about how the terrorist attack on the French satirical weekly reveals the general intolerance of Islam, particularly when compared to (supposedly) enlightened Western democracies.
American commentators have been emphatic on this point, overlooking the intolerance of home-grown extremists toward those who speak their piece.
The 1968 slaying of Martin Luther King, Jr., by a white supremacist comes to mind, since today is MLK Day.
Add to that, the terror that the self-proclaimed "Christian" organization known as the Ku Klux Klan imposed on blacks, Jews, immigrants and anyone who opposed it.Gilman's latest video shows that some folks can't handle freedom of speech
But that's all in the past, isn't it? Don't we cherish freedom of speech? Isn't violence against its practitioners and against journalists something that just doesn't happen anymore here in the good ol' U.S. of A.?
Events at a recent pro-cop rally held in the parking lot of the Scottsdale Police Department demonstrate otherwise.
During the event on Saturday, a fracas ensued, with some on the "pro-cop" side of the fence openly intimidating counter-protesters and videographer Dennis Gilman, who was there to document it.
Gilman is a freelance journalist, an independent newshound who often covers protests and marches. He has sold his footage to various news outlets over the years, New Times being one.
On Saturday, he had as much right to be on public property, filming the rally, as any of the other TV news crews or reporters, such as our own Ray Stern, who has published his account of what transpired.
So why did some pro-cop goons present feel comfortable moving on Gilman, crowding him, pushing him, blocking him, hitting him?
Because to these rednecks he represents a known quantity: someone who regularly captures their stupidities on video.
I should point out that most of the pro-cop folks did not engage in this behavior.
Chief Alan Rodbell was present, and can be seen chatting with one individual who had just begun to physically intimidate Gilman, thanking the guy for his support.
Gilman caught the unnamed bearded dude physically intimidating a slight young counter-demonstrator who was wearing a shirt that read "Fuck Police Brutality."
The hateful alter kocker, who looks like he's at least twice the size of the peaceful counter-demonstrator, lays his baseball cap on top of the individual's face.
He may have done worse, if he hadn't spotted Gilman filming him, thus diverting his attention.
Also in Gilman's video, a wannabe-badass by the name of Ken Harris remarks jokingly to another goon that, "I haven't killed anybody in a while."
Then Harris begins advancing on Gilman, with two other cop-worshipping idiots next to him for backup.
Gilman walks backward, warning Harris and his pals that they are invading his personal space.
About this time, a man whose shirt identifies him as "V. Berry," grabs a sign from another man and begins shoving Gilman with the sign.
Gilman, who is encumbered with expensive equipment, lashes back the best he can.
(Note: There is a "Van Berry" on Facebook who has a post on his timeline indicating that he was at the event. I've reached out to him via FB, but have yet to hear back from him.)
The SPD finally intervenes, a little too late, considering it was on their turf.
In Stern's video, one police officers is seen palling around with "V. Berry," patting him on the back after the incident with Gilman.
Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane was at the event, so was at least one member of the Scottsdale City Council.
If violence had erupted, we could have had another situation as occurred in Tucson in 2011.
Perhaps the SPD should solicit some advice from Phoenix Police Department in dealing with protesters.
Like that line in the Offspring song "Come Out and Play," the PPD usually knows how to "keep 'em separated," at such events.
I've put a call into the SPD for comment and to speak with Chief Rodbell about what transpired. Because of the holiday, I don't expect an immediate response.
Yes, there were some provocative statements being made. Aside from the individual with the "Fuck Police Brutality" T-shirt, there were a couple of young fellows dressed as communists, one in a full-East German Stasi uniform, asking people for their IDs and doing investigations of "enemies of the People."
But what did Charlie Hebdo do? The magazine published images making fun of the Prophet Muhammad. Terrorists "avenged" Muhammad for satirical comics that look like a cross between Mad Magazine and Hustler.
And the goofballs at the pro-cop rally were incited to threaten violence by what? A T-shirt? A dude dressed like an old-time commie? A guy with a camera who caught them acting like schoolyard toughs?
No one was killed, you'll say. And this is true. But it has happened in the U.S. before.
I'm reminded of the assassination in the 1980s of liberal talk radio personality Alan Berg by The Order, a neo-Nazi terrorist group.
And in 1978, there was the attempted assassination of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt by a white supremacist ticked at an interracial photo spread in the sex mag.
MLK was gunned down for what he stood for, for what he spoke and demonstrated about. Ditto Malcolm X.
Like H.Rap Brown once said, "Violence is as American as cherry pie."
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The Charlie Hebdo slaughter ain't so far from us as we like to think.
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