Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was in town today, due to give a speech about Social Security at a downtown Seattle park. But that didn't happen. Tomorrow, as it turns out, is the first anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri. And so Marissa Johnson and Mara Jacqueline Willaford took over the stage in the name of Black Lives Matter, and held it until Senator Sanders gave up on the rally and left. Now whether Johnson and Willaford actually represent Black Lives Matter is questionable, at best. Both the national and local organizations have denounced them. (But this is part of the problem with movements - gatekeeping can be difficult, to say the least.) According to new coverage of what happened, when the crowd that had gathered to hear Sanders speak requested that Johnson and Willaford allow the event to continue, "one activist called the crowd 'white supremacist liberals,' according to event participants."
One of the lessons that I learned as a young man is that emotion often trumps ideology. And the anger of many of Senator Sanders' supporters was palpable. A few minutes of browsing social media commentary on the cancelled speak turned up the following critiques by whites of the disruptors, copied and pasted here:
media whoresNothing out of the ordinary there, given the level of emotion that this incident has stirred up. But a few people did go beyond that...
used by outside forces
just don't get it
Trump is funding them
Certainly a plant
wannabe protesting group
hood ratsAnd one commenter went so far as to make a statement about Black people in general in their attempt to explain what happened:
Fat Black Bitches
loud ass ghetto bitches
only vote skin colorOf course, this is small sample of people - selected not through any sort of scientific sampling, but just by my random wandering through Google+.
But this is where things often start. Something makes people angry, and they lash out. And if the situation begins to escalate, you start to see the attacks ratchet up. And on social media, where a certain amount of one-upsmanship is often the norm, people can compete to be the most visibly angry. And then the slurs begin. And then someone takes offense and fights back. Then, perhaps, someone attempting to keep the piece is attacked for not being properly supportive of one side or the other.
Black Americans are an important voting block for the Democratic Party - if Senator Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, he's likely going to need their support to win the White House. And it's a safe bet that some of them are still smarting from the Party Unity My Ass movement from 2008, that claimed that the primary race between Senators Clinton and Obama was being decided by backroom deals, rather than the voters - a sentiment that for many Blacks, smacked of racism. Another fight is not what the Democrats need. (Of course, this is part of what's leading to speculation of a political false flag operation.)
This one incident is unlikely to blow up the primary race. But Senator Sanders has had run-ins with Black Lives Matter activists before, and his supporters are starting to grumble. If the anger grown large enough, resentments could flare up into something that has a measurable effect on Election Day. And there's very little that Sanders, or anyone else, can do about that. The Internet connects billions of people directly to one another. What they say over those connections will be the key.