What most people saw | By David Bacon

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«In the confrontations between a tiny number of white supremacists and a very small number of demonstrators, the photographers who chased them sometimes outnumbered those involved. At those same moments, hundreds of Black, Latino, Asian and white church people were marching up Martin Luther King Jr. Way. »

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – 26AUGUST17 – Community organizations and unions in San Francisco marched up Market Street, carrying banners and blocking streets, to protest a planned rally by Nazis and racists in San Francisco. Members of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, CWA local 39521, carry their union banner.Copyright David Bacon

By David Bacon

Relying on the photographs, reporting and video in the mainstream media can give you a false idea about the marches and demonstrations against white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers in San Francisco and Berkeley last weekend.  The newsroom adage says, “if it bleeds it leads.”  But screaming headlines about violence, and stories and images focused on scuffles, were not a good reality check. 

Mainstream coverage was miles away from the reality most people experienced.  One racist quoted for each counterprotestor ignored the fact that there were at most a few dozen of one, and many thousands of the other.  More important, where were the reasons why people came out to demonstrate against racism and rightwing politics?  How did people organize their broad constituencies of faith and labor, communities of color, women and immigrants?

In the confrontations between a tiny number of white supremacists and a very small number of demonstrators, the photographers who chased them sometimes outnumbered those involved.  At those same moments, hundreds of Black, Latino, Asian and white church people were marching up Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  The two banners of the Democratic Socialists of America (one all the way from Santa Cruz) stretched across the four lanes of the avenue.  Where were the photographers? In San Francisco thousands marched up Market Street.  I saw fewer photographers there than at any march in recent memory.

Making the scufflers so visible makes everyone else invisible.  Sure, editors choose what to put on the page or website.  But as media workers we can also see what’s real and what’s not.

Photographs by David Bacon

BOOK EVENTS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte

September 5, Living Wage Coalition
6PM, 2940 16th Street, Room 301 San Francisco

September 12, UC Berkeley Labor Center
6PM, 2521 Channing Way, Berkeley

September 13, Food to Farm Event
5:30PM, Guy West Plaza, Sacramento State University, Sacramento

September 15, Green Arcade Bookstore
7PM, 1680 Market Street, San Francisco

September 20, Commonwealth Club
With Jose Padilla, Executive Director, California Rural Legal Assistance
6PM, 555 Post Street, San Francisco

Originally published on The Reality Check by David Bacon

David Bacon

David Bacon, award-winning photojournalist and author, has spent twenty years as a labor organizer and immigrant rights activist. He has been a reporter and documentary photographer for eighteen years, shooting for many national publications, and has exhibited his work internationally. He is the author of “The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration” (Beacon Press, Sept. 2013). He works as an associate editor at Pacific News Service and hosts a weekly radio show on labor, immigration, and the global economy on KPFA-FM.

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