SALT LAKE CITY — On Aug. 29 a member of the right-wing “Patriot Prayer” group was shot and killed during a violent rally in downtown Portland. His name was Aaron “Jay” Danielson, 39, a supporter of President Donald Trump.
The day before, he and at least one other Patriot Prayer member reportedly took part in a 600-vehicle rally in support of the president. The Portland Tribune reported that Danielson was there to provide security for the caravan of vehicles carrying the now familiar American flags and “Thin Blue Line” American flags in support of law enforcement.
On Sept. 1, law enforcement had focused attention on 48-year-old Michael Forest Reinoehol as a person of interest in the shooting after a family member helped identify him. Reinoehol, an Army veteran, had posted this on a social media feed on June 16: “I am 100% ANTIFA all the way! I am willing to fight for my brothers and sisters! We do not want violence but we will not run from it either!”
On Sept. 3, VICE published a widely reported interview with Reinoehl. He told a freelance journalist that “I had no choice,” appearing to admit to the shooting. Tensions continued to mount in the Northwest.
Hours later, also on Sept. 3, officers from a federal fugitive task force moved to arrest Reinoehol in Olympia, Washington. The U.S. Marshals Service said their suspect had a firearm and officers responded to the threat, fatally shooting him.
The circumstances that left two people dead within a few short days are difficult to understand. Since the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, protesters have taken to the streets of America virtually every day. Most of the protests are peaceful. Some devolve into significant property damage. Some have turned fatal.
Black Lives Matter has become a rallying cry. Defund the police has become both a cause and a slogan. Politics has become a big part of this. The president blames Democratic governors and mayors and is meeting violence in the streets with police presence and force. His opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and many of those Democratic mayors, blame the president for inflaming the situation, inciting the violence.
It’s difficult to understand all that is occurring. The litany of labels are unsatisfactory as Americans from all walks of life have been on the streets this past summer raising their voices. Labeling each protest or action can be counterproductive because it eliminates the complicated nuances and can prevent action toward the changes Americans do agree on.
The Deseret News has enlisted our reporting staff to not just cover the events of the past four months, but also to provide context, thereby facilitating understanding. What do the labels mean? Black Lives Matter is both a movement and a group. Can one support the movement and reject the national group?
Antifa is a label people read about in media reports or hear in passing. But what is it? What is it about?
QAnon has been in the news. Is it a conspiracy? How does it relate to sex trafficking?
We set Deseret News reporter Erica Evans loose on these topics to find out and her pieces provide some clarity. We seek objective reporting to build understanding. Readers, from both extremes of the political spectrum, send us plenty of feedback, some of it scathing when our attempts at objectivity does not match their views. But we’re happy to hear from everyone who genuinely seeks understanding and offers constructive points of view.
Later this weekend the Deseret News will publish a story by reporter Jennifer Graham about another term (phenomenon) that needs understanding: “Pink-slime journalism.” Here’s part of that description
“Pink-slime journalism,” a rapidly expanding network of websites that purport to offer local news, are actually collecting data on users and often promoting a partisan agenda, according to the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.
“The term, said to have been coined in 2012 by journalist Ryan Smith to describe ‘local’ content being produced cheaply by people thousands of miles away, encompasses similar practices today.”
Below are the headlines to the other explainers of this moment in time described above, their links, and a brief description. I strongly recommend reading these stories, each written by Evans.
“What is Antifa? It’s become a watchword in this highly volatile season of American politics. But everyone seems to use the word ‘Antifa’ differently, with definitions ranging from a small set of organized groups that oppose fascism, to a larger movement of anti-Trump protesters who are willing to resort to property destruction and violence.” The article explains the definitions, the differences, and what is happening on our streets and in politics.
“Members of the QAnon community, an unorganized group of individuals who sympathize with posts by an anonymous figure ‘Q,’ believe the unsubstantiated claim that there is a global child trafficking ring run by powerful people in Hollywood and politics who use children as sacrificial objects, either for sadistic pedophilia or to harvest a chemical compound found in blood called adrenochrome.” Child sex trafficking and exploitation is real and the Deseret News has reported on Utahn Tim Ballard’s Operation Underground Railroad and its efforts to fight it. This story on QAnon details how conspiracy theories have become entwined in this battle.
There is the movement which has wide support, independent chapters not affiliated with the Black Lives Matter Global Network, and then the global network which has drawn controversy because Patrisse Cullors, one of the women credited with starting the movement, described herself and her co-founders as “trained Marxists.” The story describes the many layers of the movement and why it has attracted widespread attention.
None of these explanations will mean much to the families of Aaron “Jay” Danielson or Michael Forest Reinoehol. But it might help prevent this season of protest from turning more deadly as we each raise our own voices, which need no label.