The New York Post is being criticized for misrepresenting a group of multiracial citizens who took up arms to prevent stores in Minneapolis from being looted, excluding several group members of color in photos and referring to them as “armed rednecks.”
In what could easily be considered to be an attempt to control the narrative of social division and paint armed citizens in a poor light, the publication picked up on a story initially reported by Max Nesterak of the Minnesota Reformer.
Nesterak, who was on the ground in Minneapolis during the looting and burning of several businesses, interviewed a group of armed men -of various ethnicities- standing together outside of a tobacco store.
When asked who they were, the men replied that they were “Free Americans,” who took pity upon machete-armed shopkeepers attempting to defend their livelihoods from mobs.
“It turns out these guys are out here with machetes and shattered windows trying to keep looters out of the businesses ’cause cops can’t get in here,” said one of the men, wearing sunglasses. “So I figured before there were cops, there were just Americans, so here we are.”
The men went from shop to shop, asking store owners if they needed help- and counting on their presence to prevent violent action by both the rioters and law enforcement.
“Basically you see the records that cops keep,” one man said. “And cops are a lot less likely to try and tread on people’s rights when there’s other armed Americans with them,” one of the men says in a video taken by the reporter, Max Nesterak. “I figured it’s about damn time that some heavily armed rednecks stood with fellow citizens.”
The men discussed parallels with the 1992 LA Riots, bringing up the famed “Roof Koreans” of LA’s Koreatown, who defended their businesses from rioters.
At one point, one of the men points out to the others that the nearby Target store had caught fire.
The carbine-carrying men and the shopkeepers all represented different backgrounds, but they all appeared to share common ground- a desire for accountability and a mission to keep the peace.
Despite this, the New York Post painted the men in a less than favorable light.
“‘Armed rednecks’ defend stores from looters amid George Floyd protests,” the headline read, loosely paraphrasing one of the riflemen while seemingly missing the point.
To add insult to injury, the Post’s photo of the incident cropped out the other two riflemen -who appear to be black and hispanic, respectively- and the shopkeepers, who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent.
“What they didn’t show is the armed black men right beside these [two] ‘rednecks’ doing the same thing,” Richard Gassaway commented on the Post’s Facebook page.
“This picture isn’t the whole truth!!” wrote Tabitha King Long. “Just a few feet to the left are fellow Americans wearing the same gear, with the same guns standing with them protecting the business.”
On Twitter, user @LibertarianRedhead noted that she had interacted with the four men.
“I talked to them this morning actually,” she wrote. “Nice guys, all of them.”
“It’s the new A-Team,” user @CaptainHook4 replied. “That’s how you do it!”
In a time of unrest, social division and distrust of both the media and government, appears to be hope. These men, who put their own safety on the line for their community, are not simply “two Caucasians and two men of color.” They are, as one of them said, four “Free Americans,” who have managed to capture and embody the American spirit of unity under duress- as the world around them falls apart.
By Andy Wolf
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