A black journalist who was filmed protecting a white man from being beaten by antifa activists in Berkeley, California, over the weekend is explaining his decision after receiving criticism from some on the left.
Now-viral video footage showed the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Al Letson shielding a man, who later identified himself as a President Trump supporter and vlogger, from a group of violent “anti-fascist” activists during clashes in Berkeley on Sunday. Videos showed masked, black-clad activists hitting the man with poles and punching and kicking him repeatedly as he laid on the ground. Mr. Letson then draped himself over the man and repeatedly screamed “Stop!” until the attackers relented.
Antifa beat down apparent alt-righter. pic.twitter.com/WVdDJqLKmA
— Shane Bauer (@shane_bauer) August 27, 2017
Someone dives on top of another guy being beaten by Antifa, begging them to stop, fleeing behind police lines. Intra-left blows exchanged. pic.twitter.com/bz2zFEB25j— Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) August 27, 2017
“I was scared they were going to kill him,” said Mr. Letson, who hosts the center’s Reveal podcast. “So the only thing I could think was I wanted to get on top of him to protect him.”
Some social media users criticized Mr. Letson for standing up for the man, who later identified himself as Keith Campbell, who runs the conservative Youtube Channel Patriot Warrior Media, Reveal reported.
Mr. Letson took to Twitter on Tuesday to explain his position, saying he had no idea who Mr. Campbell was but felt a duty to act.
“I wasn’t there to save anyone. I was there to cover the protest which was largely peaceful. I’m no saint, savior, or some great peacemaker, I’m just a man. I wasn’t taking sides btw the protestors. I am a journalist,” Mr. Letson wrote in a series of tweets. “The last thing I wanted was to be apart of the story. I don’t want the focus on me. But of all the things I am, I am a human first. I didn’t know who the man was, I didn’t care, he was in trouble and I reacted.
“I’m not making political statements about who did what and why. I just acted when I saw someone in need. That’s it,” he wrote. “If you have a problem with it, that’s your issue not mine. If saving someone who’s a white supremacist makes me less a black man for you @Plantsmantx again, that’s your problem not mine. I know who I am & what I stand for. I’m not perfect. I’m just a man trying to navigate the world as I find it… And leave it a little a better than I found it.
Mr. Letson’s employer is also standing behind him.
“Our editorial policy is clear: we are unbiased observers not participants,” Reveal Editor in Chief Amy Pyle said in a statement. “However, in reviewing the video, it is clear that Al did not take sides. Instead, he responded as any of us might if we saw another human in distress.”
Mr. Campbell later reached out to Mr. Letson, saying what he did was “incredible.”
“I wanted to reach out to Al because it was a direct, coordinated attack,” he told Reveal. “It’s incredible what he did.”
Mr. Campbell said he sustained bruised ribs and kidneys on Sunday but suffered no permanent damage.
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