On Sunday, Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer posted this video of a group of black bloc (or "antifa") activists bludgeoning an "apparent alt-righter" at an otherwise mostly peaceful protest in Berkeley, California. The clip cuts off after a man in a red shirt, still carrying a microphone and wearing recording headphones, throws himself on top of the man being beaten.
The red-shirted man who intervened was Al Letson, a poet and playwright who hosts Reveal, a podcast and NPR radio show from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Jack Smith IV, from Mic, posted what happened next.
On Monday, Letson spoke with NPR and Slate. He said the guy being kicked and beaten was with Joey Gibson, the "Patriot Prayer" organizer of an aborted alt-right "free speech" rally that groups on the left, including the far-left black bloc faction, came out to overwhelm. Gibson, accompanied by the other guy, "was antagonizing the black bloc, and it really escalated," Letson told Slate's Osita Nwanevu. "So they started chasing Joey and this guy," and while Gibson made it to the police line, the other guy "stumbled — or someone tripped him — and then four or five people surrounded him and began to kick and hit him with like a flagpole."
He did not intend to throw himself on the guy, Letson told NPR's Kelly McEvers. But "when I glanced to my left I saw, you know, a mass of people just coming off the lawn toward this guy, and I don't know — I just, I thought they were going to kill him. And I just didn't want anybody to die." He did not consider that the guy on the ground might well be part of a white nationalist group, he said, but he did remember seeing pictures of alt-right protesters brutally beat a young man at the Charlottesville march, "and when I saw that I thought, 'Why didn't anybody step in?'" In the end, Letson said, "it doesn't matter if he doesn't see my humanity, what matters to me is that I see his." You can read the interviews at Slate and NPR, and listen to the McEvers interview below. Peter Weber