An ugly scene unfolded in California Friday as supporters of Bernie Sanders turned out to counter a Hillary Clinton rally, but lucky for all Democrats, a hero was on the scene in Los Angeles. ‘Free Hugs Man’ is the hero that Democrats need right now.

Sanders partisans interrupted Clinton during her speech in Monterey Park. But outside, radical organizations Union del Barrio, the Brown Berets, and others formed a gantlet with Sanders supporters while the people entered and left.

As one eyewitness wrote at Medium.com, this crowd was pretty abusive.

While observing them, it became clear how aggressive these people were. They were cussing at people, calling women whores, and telling people to kill themselves. They were shouting in children’s faces, blowing sirens in their ears, and making them cry.

Young or old, strong or handicapped, no one was immune from the rage on display. Activists and journalists were present to record events, so this is not some fake thing that David Brock cooked up, either.

While most attendees ignored the protesters, there were inevitable confrontations. Feminist filmmaker Jennifer Hall Lee wrote of what happened when she tried to take a picture of one man who was wearing only an Aztec loincloth:

As I held my camera to my face he moved in quickly with his megaphone and shouted into my face, “Shame on you.” He said it over and over again as he advanced towards me and I was forced to back up into the crowd of protestors.

Shame on me? For what? For attending a rally for Hillary Clinton or the fact that I was fully clothed?

He was no Ryan Gosling and I dare say that in a politically correct future where laws would prevent people from being offensive, he would have been cited for cultural appropriation.

This man in red face was utilizing his male privilege (if I may use progressive parlance); shirtless and showing his pubic hair. He had no fear of being attacked and he didn’t look vulnerable, but he chose to physically intimidate me.

Ironically, a plurality of the people attending Clinton’s speech were themselves Latino:

https://twitter.com/JosIbarra14/status/728756209965105152

Unfortunately, things got much worse. In an account she asked people to share, Susan Fields describes a disturbing scene as she left the event.

I was walking holding the hand of my 18 month old grandson. He was starting to get scared due the yelling and screaming of the protesters. A girl jumped down and yelled in my face “you can kiss your family goodbye” then said if I voted for Hillary my son (pointing at my grandson) would die. The Hillary volunteer kept her from charging me. The Sanders supporters where targeting families that brought children. One other mother tried to tell the protesters that she liked Sanders but preferred Hillary and they threatened her 2 children too. One girl about 9-10 was crying and shaking it was just terrible.

Words are just words, but this is bullying:

https://twitter.com/mattbermudezz/status/728470714131456000

https://twitter.com/mattbermudezz/status/728662763703181312

Enter our hero: Free Hugs Man saved the day by intervening to prevent clashes — and helping the people who were most confused and frightened by the angry people shouting “BER-NEE! BER-NEE!” when they weren’t shouting “FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU!”

Let’s not paint with a broad brush here. When the early reports came out yesterday, most of the Sanders supporters in my social media stream agreed that this sort of behavior is beneath the senator’s campaign, and ought to be condemned. A consensus quickly formed that the best possible response would be for both candidates’ campaigns to give that little girl autographed campaign posters to replace the one that was destroyed.

So this isn’t really a moment for us to engage in a political debate, for those passions are clearly too high already.

I have attended presidential candidate rallies since I was eight years old, documented protests and mass arrests, and always marveled at how creative, courageous, and amazing progressive organizing can be. Of all those candidate events and environments I’ve personally witnessed, none has involved humiliating people and driving children to tears — though I have seen that done before…by right wingers, outside of abortion clinics.

There is a lot of smack-talk on the left these days about who ‘really’ holds ‘true’ progressive values, but to my eyes, Free Hugs Man is more progressive than the entire crowd shouting at those kids put together. Frankly, today I want to make him president. Keep your candidates, for he is the man of the hour.

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A view from inside the ‘shaming walk’
  • muselet

    A couple of things come to mind.

    First, I’ve seen no evidence that Bernie Sanders or his campaign planned, sanctioned or approved of what happened (i know you aren’t suggesting that, Matt, but I want to emphasize the point). How many of those screaming abuse were actually Bernie Sanders supporters and how many were Rs out for an amusing afternoon’s ratfucking? Sandernistas can be insufferable, but I don’t recall hearing about bullying and generally offensive behavior.

    And second, Free Hugs Man is a straight up hero.

    –alopecia

    • As I wrote above, it was actually organized by some radical Latino orgs, and while they were pretty clear about it not being a “Bernie event,” there seems to have been a lot of participation by Sanders supporters. As far as bullying goes, I refer you to the stories about attempts to badger superdelegates, the Berniac who tried submitting a newspaper obituary for Clinton, etc.

      • muselet

        To be clear, I was referring to the in-person screaming and assaulting when I mentioned bullying. Harrassing superdelegates and writing fake obits fit into the slightly different category called “massive stupidity.”

        I have no clue why Unión del Barrio or the Brown Berets would be incensed about Hillary Clinton (I frankly don’t know enough about the organizations to form an opinion). No, she’s not the greatest advocate for Latino-specific causes, but singling her out for abuse seems odd and counterproductive.

        The PUMAs in 2008 were half a dozen noisy people who got on television seemingly every twelve minutes. My guess is that the loudest Bernie Or Busters are half a dozen College Republicans with a lot of sockpuppet accounts on social media, trying, as I said, to ratfuck the Democratic nomination process. It seems to me they would find a chance to piggyback on an anti-Clinton protest irresistible, but whether or not they did is unknown and possibly unknowable.

        It was a nauseating spectacle, regardless of who was responsible.

        –alopecia