Black Lives Matter protesters stand over diners at DC restaurant demanding they show solidarity

Video of a furious contretemps outside a Washington eatery has fuelled an already acrimonious row over what constitutes reasonable protest

Andrew Naughtie
Wednesday 26 August 2020 15:59 BST
BLM protesters descend on white diner at DC restaurant

Video of a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters angrily hectoring a patron at a Washington, DC restaurant has gone viral, drawing a backlash from both left and right.

Shared by Washington Post reporter Fredrick Kunkle on Tuesday, the footage shows a crowd of black-clad demonstrators shouting “white silence is violence” and raising their fists in an affluent DC neighbourhood, then descending on a white woman seated at an outdoor table.

Having declined to raise her fist along with them, the woman remains impassive as protesters scream into her face. One of them demands to know if she is a Christian; her answer is drowned out by shouts of “no justice, no peace”. In another clip from Mr Kunkle, a protester appears to order white protesters to the front of the crowd to confront her.

The videos are among several showing protesters berating white people eating at other Washington restaurants that same day. On various occasions, people at tables can be seen standing up and raising fists in solidarity; other videos show them sitting in silence as protesters address them through megaphones and put cameras in their faces.

Mr Kunkle’s videos, however, has had by far the most responses on social media, racking up millions of views since he posted it.

His footage has divided viewers into various camps. Some call the protesters’ tactics dangerous and self-defeating, accusing them of “doing the Trump campaign’s work for free”. Various right-wing repliers claim the clip as evidence that Black Lives Matter is an extremist – even terrorist – organisation infiltrated by antifa. Some even compared the protests to the Nazi brownshirts or Mao Zedong’s brutal Cultural Revolution.

Others have pointed out that those diners who raised their fists in response may not have done so in genuine solidarity given the intimidating atmosphere created by the protesters’ tactics.

Also taking issue with the video was Chuck Modiano, a journalist whom Mr Kunkle tweeted was present at the scene though he is not in fact pictured, and who shared videos of his own from other restaurant encounters earlier the same day.

“Guy w/many followers stated I was screaming at woman w/crowd,” he wrote. “Not true. We also spoke cordially for 20 min after.”

Mr Modiano has catalogued multiple incidents of police violence in the protests that have roiled Washington since the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin – among them incidents of officers allegedly detaining protesters on false pretexts, damaging their property, and seizing their cellphones.

The woman at the centre of the incident, Lauren B. Victor, spoke to Mr Kunkle at the scene, saying she didn’t raise her fist because it “didn’t feel right at the time” – but emphasising that “I’m very much with them. I’ve been marching with them for weeks and weeks and weeks.”

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