Black Lives Matter Bully Pulpit

Asa Khalif and Isaac Gardener bring tough tactics to tough times

(Photo Left) Black Lives Matter disruption techniques show results in city hall. Logo courtesy of Black Lives Matter.

Last month, it happened again. A press conference hosted by elected officials to announce some good government initiative broken up by the local leaders of Black Lives Matter.

Here’s how CBS Philly described the affair: “Two Philadelphia men brought an early end to a news conference in the Mayor’s Reception room on Monday morning. The news conference was about the zero waste and litter initiative, but the men wanted to talk about the death of a civilian at the hands of police. Asa Khalif and Isaac Gardner of Black Lives Matter strolled into the reception room as Council President Darrell Clarke was speaking and aimed their anger over the fatal police shooting of 32-year-old David Jones of Germantown squarely at him.

 ‘Where do you stand on the shooting death of David Jones?’ asked Khalif.

‘Want to have a meeting?’ responded Clarke.

‘I want you to say it here in front of everybody,’ said Khalif.

‘You’re not going to dictate the terms of the discussion,’ Clarke shot back.

‘Well, then, we’re going to keep right here,’ said Khalif.

The disruption continued for about 10 minutes until it was clear there would be no resolution, other than to end the event.

Khalif and Gardner have disrupted other public events and held protests since the June shooting.”

Of course this set the pundit class into a tizzy of handwringing condemnation about the lack of decency and decorum in our political discourse. The conventional wisdom seems to be that there is a continuum: from bull-horning down Mayor Nutter’s budget address, to shutting down this past June’s soda tax hearing, to this most recent act of civil disobedience.

Stu Bykofsky, launched his 500-word diatribe with these words: “This is our summer of civic embarrassment. We have leaders whose cringeworthy spinelessness encourages self-righteous protesters to throw public tantrums and stop public business.”

Byko takes the Rendell “Nation of Wussies” approach, by placing the blame for these disruptions on the elected officials who sit idly by allowing them to occur. “To Clarke’s right, Mayor Kenney was twisting in a throne-like chair, his chin resting on his right palm, his face expressionless. Here’s a pet Kenney project announcement being torpedoed, and what does he do? Nothing.”

Byko ends by calling this behavior anarchy. Holy Patrick Henry, Batman.

Philadelphia Citizen’s Larry Platt toned down the hyperbole a bit but sang the same tune. Ultimately, he pivoted, checked his “white male privilege” and gave the platform to Erica Atwood, formerly the city’s Director of the Office of Black Male Engagement — I confess I didn’t know we had one of those — to opine on the tactics of BLM. Attwood said, “What Asa does is problematic … There’s no strategy, just tactics. And it’s bullying.”

In a phillymag.com interview, Asa Khalif defends these tactics: “There’s always an advantage if it gets you to the table, where you can actually sit down with your demands to help your community. The whole point of protesting, the whole point of shutting things down, is not just to get your name in the papers. The point is to eventually get to the table to make those changes. You cannot make changes unless you’re at the table. If you’re not at the table, then you’re out in the cold with a sign. The sign gets you into those meetings where you can make fundamental change for your community and have a list of demands that you can articulate and that you can negotiate. That’s why I do it.”

Give Khalif his props. Disrupting a press conference on litter control to make a profound statement about race relations and the Philadelphia Police Department seems to be more than just tactics, it actually is strategic.

Not only did news organizations covering the press conference devote space to explaining the David Jones case to the public, he got an official response as well.

Khalif demanded that Councilman Clarke finally make a public statement on the shooting; and he did just that. His office issued the following statement an hour after the press conference: “People knew this man, loved this man, and had hopes for his future. His death and the weeks following have been painful for all parties involved. The pain being felt by Mr. Jones’ loved ones must be honored and respected, no matter the outcome of this investigation.”

We’re not denying that Asa Khalif is a bully. We’re just saying we understand.


Black Lives Matter Bully Pulpit

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