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Screen shot taken from a Facebook Live video, streamed live by independent media organization, Unicorn Riot.

On Saturday, August 16, 2020, hundreds of protesters traveled to Minneapolis police union president, Bob Kroll’s home in suburban Hugo, Minnesota, to protest Kroll’s record, especially in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. This scene is in Kroll’s driveway, where protesters pounded pinatas of Kroll and his wife, WCCO TV reporter, Liz Collin. The pinata pounding protester is John Thompson, Democratic candidate to represent St. Paul’s district 67A in the Minnesota legislature.

Although many Twin Cities media organizations incorrectly reported this was a Black Lives Matter protest, Bring Me the News reported, and the group’s Facebook page confirms, the Racial Justice Network organized it. The Racial Justice Network is a grassroots organization led by Twin Cities activist Nekima Levy-Armstrong. The video linked in the caption above suggests the group is well funded and organized. The video shows a large truck filled with equipment, a sound system, matching clothes, and people dressed in bright-colored vests to keep things organized.

This protest was tame, especially compared to what we’ve seen in the United States the past few months. No fists flew, no property was damaged, no tear gas, just lots of noise. Police monitored the route through the neighborhood and the only tense moment came when protesters yelled at a homeowner to move his hands away from a gun stuffed in his pants. A police officer quickly moved in and the crowd moved on. Other homeowners watched.

Thompson went overboard.

“Come on over here with your ‘Blue Lives Matter’ sign. Blue live ain’t s—, and if people in Hugo don’t support black people, f— Hugo,” Thompson said.

He also said, “You think we give a [expletive] about burning Hugo down?” Some took that as an ugly threat.

The march wound through the neighborhood with Thompson and Levy-Armstrong shouting chants and profanity over the speakers. It ended in Kroll’s driveway, where they took a knee in front of Kroll’s flag pole, left anti-Kroll signs in the driveway, and pounded the pinatas. And then they left. The Unicorn Riot video linked in the caption above is 72 minutes.

Many suggest pounding the pinatas was an intimidation tactic aimed at TV reporter, Liz Collin. The Racial Justice Network had protested outside the WCCO TV studio in Minneapolis before and demanded WCCO fire her because of an alleged conflict of interest with her husband. But WCCO says Collin does not report on police matters. This time they showed up at her house and bashed his and her effigies to smithereens.

None of this made the local news until former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, Michael Brodkorb, tweeted a video clip on Monday, two days later.

And then a middle-aged, bald-headed IT guy waded into this mess. People smarter than me keep telling me to stay out of political controversy. But I’m an American and I can’t bury my head while my country tears itself apart. Too many people gave their lives so I can tweet and blog in the middle of the night.

Reaction was swift. And massive. At the time of this writing, 21 hours later, my tweet reply generated 18,523 impressions and climbing fast, with 1660 engagements, including:

  • 360 link clicks
  • 173 profile clicks
  • 170 media views
  • 65 replies

One tweeter called me a twerp. Another called me liberal white Boomer and pathetic coward. Another one accused me of supporting a political terror organization, called me willfully ignorant, and told me to wake the f___ up. Several asked for my home address so they could pound pinatas of me in my driveway. One said, “We won’t forget you when we win.” That was chilling. Somebody called me an apologist. One said I probably beat my children. And so on. A few left wingers called the right-wingers fascists.

All in the name of civilized dialog.

But some people who disagreed with me did it politely. And this is where people on the far left and far right should pay close attention. Because this is a lesson in how to influence opinions. A few asked me how I would feel if this stuff went on in my driveway. That made me think. A few others asked how appropriate is it for somebody to spew profanity over loudspeakers in front of children in a neighborhood. What if this happened in my neighborhood? With my grandsons watching.

We had a dialog. It’s all in the Twitter thread. And – get this – I changed my mind.

Bold and italics added above for emphasis. Thompson is Black and frustrated from decades of discrimination. Apparently, he was friends with Philando Castile, killed by a police officer in July, 2016. He and the Black community have good reasons to be frustrated. And angry. But angry mobs have already caused too much damage in the United States. We need leaders, and spewing profanity at a neighborhood is not leading. What would the late John Lewis have done?

Pounding the pinatas was also way over the top. And it backfired. Thompson may have burned off frustration swinging those batons, but he and the Racial Justice Network hurt their reputations.

To his credit, Thompson apologized Tuesday after the tweets went viral. But he still exercised poor judgment when it counted. And it was not a spur of the moment slip – the Racial Justice Network planned this event weeks in advance. The group also made excuses for his behavior on its Facebook page. That hurts its credibility. An organization advocating for racial justice needs to keep its own racial justice clean.

If Thompson and the Racial Justice Network want to sway opinions, do it with dialog, not confrontation. Reasonable people will listen. Black people have good reasons to demand change.

As I finish composing this blog post, I noticed another tweet about an opinion piece in the Minneapolis Star/Tribune by Blois Olson. I like what he has to say. As should all reasonable people.

And finally, at the end of the protest, a sliver of an opening. Those effigy pinatas were filled with candy. Somebody handed a sucker to one of the police officers and he tucked it into his belt. I grabbed an image because I like the symbolism.

Dialog – real dialog – works. Let’s try it, starting right here. Leave a comment if you want. But follow my rules. Stand behind what you say by identifying yourself, and keep it civil.