Sparked by the death of George Floyd, Mark Newhouse joined protesters in San Jose on Saturday who were demanding an end to police brutality. They were met with the same response as other protests nationwide: More police brutality.
Newhouse is a poker player best known for making back-to-back World Series of Poker Main Event final tables in 2013-14, a stunning accomplishment. In both years he finished 9th for over $700,000. In any other year, he’d be in Las Vegas right now playing the WSOP, and so would I.
On Saturday night he turned into a journalist and did a better job of covering the protests in San Jose than the mainstream media. He said on Facebook:
“Attended a peaceful protest in downtown San Jose tonight only to be met with an absurd police presence and intimidation. I got hit with a rubber bullet but I think it got deflected by my ID in my pocket and didn’t really hurt. Was also exposed to tear gas several times.
“I will be very clear: The aggression started with the police. The worst that anyone in the crowd did was throw a plastic bottle, the response was tear gas and rubber bullets every time. Police would chase us down and corner us any time the group tried to move with a wall of bikes and I saw one guy get arrested for absolutely nothing. Tear gas and rubber bullets also followed when this happened.
“I will say very clearly again. The aggression started with the police. This was a peaceful protest. By the time people started damaging property they had taken a great deal of abuse and intimidation tactics from the police.”
Newhouse posted videos on his Facebook message. In one 4-minute long video, as police advanced on them, one protester can be heard saying, “This is a peaceful protest!” Other protesters began chanting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” Then the teargas canisters are shot at them.
“You can see police backing people against a wall,” he told Deadspin. “As far as I could tell that was completely unprovoked but I did not see what happened before it.”
Later Newhouse says, the police started chasing us around and “cornering people in a park.
“At this point I had seen zero aggression from protesters.”
At City Hall, where the main protest was, Newhouse says a couple bottles got thrown and after each one the police responded by “tear gassing and shooting rubber bullets.”
Newhouse described the scene as “almost like a military parade of cops showing off their SWAT teams and armored cars.”
The San Jose Mercury News ran this headline:
Looters wreak havoc at San Francisco’s Union Square, Powell Street Center in Emeryville during second night of protests across Bay Area
Underneath that, a subhead:
Police in San Jose deploy tear gas and rubber bullets, BART stations in Oakland closed.
Words have meanings, and the use of words has meaning. The main headline mentions looting and nothing about police aggression. “Deploy” used next to a headline of looters wreaking havoc above a photo of a burning building strongly implies that it was in response to looting.
Let’s just call it what it is: a unified response nationwide as police clearly stood in solidarity; violence in the name of crushing dissent over cold-blooded murder.
The Bay Area’s ABC News affiliate did much of the same, focusing on looting. But one media outlet got it right: Police Erupt in Violence Nationwide. That was the headline at Slate.com as it showed the shocking videos of unprovoked police brutality. Deadspin’s sister site The Root put it plainly: Police Prove Point Of Protest By Instigating Violence Across The Country.
Presenting it any other way is akin to President Trump saying that there were “very fine people on both sides” when white supremacists killed a woman in Charlottesville. The mainstream media isn’t used to reporting objectively on police matters because cops are often their best news sources.
Lest anyone think rubber bullets are safe, images from across the country prove otherwise. A cop in Minneapolis shot photographer Linda Tirado in the eye; she’ll never see out of it again. A graphic picture of a woman in San Diego showed a rubber bullet lodged in her forehead.
Update: Sunday Newhouse went out to protest again, and he got arrested.
“I got arrested tonight for being a part of a peaceful assembly,” he posted on Facebook. “Literally no one in the group I was near did anything remotely aggressive or violent. We were relentlessly pursued, harassed, and detained by police.”
In New York, videos surfaced of a young man with his hands in the air who had his mask pulled down and was pepper-sprayed in the face by a cop.
Police cars driving over crowds of protesters:
An NYPD officer flashing a white power sign:
Really makes you think, right? Ever wonder why you never see cops violently attacking KKK rallies? These are just a handful of videos that spread around the internet like wildfire of peaceful protesters being attacked by police.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio disgracefully defended the police actions and blamed protesters, saying it was “inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers.” He also said the police showed “great restraint.”
Most Americans have a hard time believing that their country is a neo-fascist state, but what would we say if this happened elsewhere in the world? If we saw peaceful protesters being beaten by heavily armed and armored paramilitary units who flash signs associated with hate groups known for over a century of ethnic cleansing, we would just call them terrorists.
And the mainstream media is far too often complicit in this system.
“I felt the need to say something for sure with how this stuff seems to be getting spun on the news,” Newhouse said.
Black people were right about the police all along. Black Lives Matter.