Tensions ran high on Sunday when a protester confronted a Fox News reporter about the realities of police violence towards black Americans.
The Huffington Post’s David Lohr witnessed the encounter and live streamed it on Facebook. A man who identifies himself as Byron Cole in the video above was protesting that evening in Baton Rouge when he noticed that the journalist appeared to be “covering” his Fox News badge while reporting on the scene. The incident spurred a multifaceted conversation, during which Cole broke down the double standard in the way authorities police certain communities.
In predominantly black neighborhoods, “the officer has tons of discretion and he can decide to shoot a man down in the parking lot of a gas station,” he said. “Whereas where white people live, it’s operating under a legalistic system, which has to go by the book.”
Last week, two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were shot and killed by police officers. According to The Washington Post, African Americans are overrepresented in police shooting statistics. African American citizens account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police, despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population.
But the protester didn’t just address issue of police violence. The media’s portrayal of police shootings can be just as problematic, he said, particularly when outlets report on black death without giving the community a chance to tell its own stories.
“I know that. You know that. Fox News knows that. CNN knows that,” Cole said. “And what the deal is y’all won’t have no more room to air anything in our neighborhoods and benefit off our tragedies, unless we gonna talk about what the hell we want to talk about.”
Cole, who was also live streaming his encounter with the reporter on Facebook as the conversation was taking place, said the proliferation of social platforms has democratized the media. These days, traditional news sources aren’t the only options for citizens looking to stay informed, he said.
“We are empowered and we don’t have to rely on any of your institutions to spread any of the words because, first and foremost, y’all mitigate everything and you spin everything from your perspective...” he said. “All black people now have smartphones and we’re all aware of the contradictions and the double standards. The cat’s out the bag, man. We understand.”
Speaking to Lohr after the incident, Cole said the reporter’s attempt to cover his badge was what spurred the confrontation.
“And I told [the reporter] that was part of the problem in America, really, that he felt he had every right to be out here documenting everyone, just because that’s his job...,” he said. “Why do you feel it’s okay to come and monitor us and document us, but not allow [us to do the same].”
Watch the conversation unfold in the video above.