The George Floyd protests have become a hot button political issue and another cause for the Black Lives Matter movement to rally behind. Demonstrators all over the country have protested the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others at the hands of police, and while there are throngs of peaceful gatherings occurring across the U.S., there has also been a lot of looting and rioting going on, which has been getting a lot of press. Press that's extremely divided people on the issue of police brutality.
While the overwhelming majority of folks are, again, trying to take action in a peaceful manner, there are very vocal people on both sides of the issue that have been criticized. Whether it's for making swooping generalizations from individuals participating in the A.C.A.B. movement, or people who are ignoring the work of those demonstrating non-violently and focusing solely on looters and rioters, both sides are getting heat for not engaging the issue in a helpful manner.
Unfortunately, there have been lots of cases where individuals have taken their personal stances on the matter a bit too far. To the point where it becomes illegal — like silencing children's ability to voice their own opinions peacefully.
Like this Maryland cyclist who accosted children who were putting up Black Lives Matter fliers out in public.
In a video that was taken by someone who recorded and uploaded the incident, it's clear how disturbing his actions were.
He is seen wrestling papers out of the hands of someone who appears to be no older than 14 years old as another child looks on. The man, after being questioned for his actions, then begins to run towards whoever was recording with his bike.
It's an unsettling sequence of events that's captured national attention.
Before long, however, the man who was involved in the incident on the Capital Crescent trail near Washington, D.C. was identified as an employee of Made to Order Inc.
Once the company learned of his action, they not only issued a statement informing people that he was no longer under their employment, but that they "stand in solidarity with [the] Black Community" and that "Black Lives Matter."
The man was identified as Anthony Brennan III of Kensington, Md. The 60-year-old was not only fired from Made To Order, but was arrested and charged with second-degree assault.
The man who uploaded the original video had asked to remain anonymous and said that Brennan accused them of "inciting riots" and called them "deviants," before ripping the fliers from the children's hands. The video uploader also said the man had rushed him and pinned him to the ground before leaving.
The fliers that the children were posting had the words, "Killer cops will not go free" written on them along with a call to action, urging people to text "Floyd" to a phone number.
Brennan has since apologized for his actions: "I am committed to making amends by addressing, through counseling, the underlying issues that led to my abhorrent behavior," and says he is "sick with remorse for the pain and fear I caused the victims."
While there are plenty of stories where the internet manages to successfully identify criminals from photos and recordings, this tale has a dark side as well. Before Brennan was successfully IDed, social media users offered up the names of two other men as "suspects." The collective ire of the internet rained down on these men before it was discovered that Brennan was indeed the man in the video.
Attorney General of Maryland Brian Frosh said that publicly identifying folks on social media before all of the facts are in order could potentially lead to "harm [of] innocent people."
The maximum penalty for a second-degree assault charge in Maryland is 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.