To some extent, perhaps, local law enforcement understands this. Across the nation, police have seemingly targeted reporters and television crews who are in the process of documenting the protests (the Seattle police, in fact, seemed to be aiming at Jo Ling Kent when they fired the flash-bang). Press cameras have been intentionally smashed, and a CNN reporter was arrested on live television. The resulting images give Americans a first-person view of what it’s like in the thick of a peaceful protest when police abruptly turn violent. They mark a gross miscalculation by the authorities — instead of being received by accepting viewers, they’re generating alarm and outcry. Most notably, this week’s display in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., intended to make President Trump look tough and in charge, had the opposite effect; headlines described how the police tear-gassed peaceful Americans for the sake of a photo-op.
On the one hand, the fact that the police are unashamed to act so aggressively in front of rolling cameras is chilling: It signals they largely don’t fear repercussions for cracking down on nonviolent protesters. But the material it generates could prove pivotal in persuading popular opinion to the side of the protests, and to sustaining the movement. After all, watching the live reports and browsing videos shared on social media makes it abundantly clear that, in many or even most cases, the police are the ones who are escalating tensions, including driving cars through crowds and opening fire with rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades on reporters trying to do their jobs.
It’s dramatic television, yes. But even more than that, it is bringing the mundane experiences of black Americans onto our nightly news.