There’s a video that has gone viral in recent days purporting to show an anti-Trump protestor in Hollywood getting maced after allegedly stealing a sign from a Trump supporter.
That is not, however, what the video shows.
The video opens showing an older white man in a red shirt and blue baseball cap pursing and cursing a much younger man of color wearing black pants and a black tee shirt, challenging the younger man to a fight.
The younger man turns around and seems amused at the challenge, and the older man seems to stop and goes out of frame, presumably suddenly realizing that he’s inviting a physical confrontation that would go poorly for him.
As the young man focuses on the older man, a middle-aged white woman with red hair who had concealed some sort of small chemical spray in her right hand—probably OC (oleoresin capsicum)—walks by, and as the younger man focuses on the older man, she launches a surprise attack.
She seems to spray the left side of his head and neck first, but he hardly seems to notice. He turns towards her, and that’s when she gets him in the eyes. The effect is instantaneous.
He immediately starts screaming in agony, first pulling off his shirt, then grabbing an apparent passerby’s short to try to wipe the spray from his eyes.
He starts yelling for water, and several other people come to his aide. The woman who sprayed him, meanwhile, lurks in the crowd for several moments apparently reveling in the young man’s pain before walking away. The camera pans back to the crowd, which appear to be holding signs made for a “Gays for Trump” rally. She is last seen walking away, looking over her shoulder with a big smile on her face.
Some of the other pro-Trump protesters look on with inscrutable expressions, while several people who are not holding signs seem very amused at the young man’s apparent comeuppance.
We’re going to have to simple assume that the person filming the event and posting it to social media is being relatively honest in describing the events leading up to this man getting pepper sprayed. Clearly, something agitated numerous people and had them following him, and the claim that he’d ripped someone’s pro-Trump sign out of their hands in ultra-liberal Hollywood (on the “Walk of Fame,” no less) seems very plausible.
But what of the pepper spray attack itself?
While it was clearly satisfying to the woman who carried out the attack and may feel like “street justice” to her and others at the rally, what was shown on camera her was an apparent felonious assault. Whatever offense the young man had given before filming began, he was attempting to egress the scene when the attack took place, and was not threatening anyone.
His hands were down—one on his hip, one at his side—when she launched her attack. This was not a justified use of force. This was a crime.
Pepper spray is a less-lethal weapon, not a toy, and if police can identify her, odds are she won’t be smiling any more.