Larry Schultz, an organizer of the Black Lives Matter rally in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia last Friday, told WRNR’s Eastern Panhandle Talk with Rob Mario and David Welch this morning that the reason he helped organize the event was because “we heard of some troubling racial incidents involving children in the community.”
“There were incidents in the schools and in a public place where people were using the N word toward biracial and African American kids – including a kid as young as six,” Schultz said. “And that’s just never acceptable. A group of us got together and said – we are going to get out there, talk about these incidents and say – if you are afraid that nobody cares about you, come and see us.”
Welch asked Schultz – were most of the people from the anti-Black Lives Matter event from outside Morgan County?
“No,” Schultz said. “Most of them were from inside Morgan County. That’s more of a guess. But it’s not entirely a guess. I did see people I know live in Morgan County in that group.”
“I talked to a number of the different organizers (of the anti-rally) and I myself was personally threatened,” Schultz said.
How so? Welch asked.
“They threatened to burn my house,” Schultz said. “And that’s a person whose picture I took. I now have his name. It’s a little difficult because if that case were tried, it’s his word against mine and it wasn’t recorded. But yes, there were people who were threatened. I heard of other threats that were made. I heard from others who were threatened.”
“In that kind of a setting, simply saying to someone – your days are numbered – is pretty chilling.”
Welch asked – “Had you titled this event – Rally to Support Marginalized Communities – rather than call it Black Lives Matter – would you have aroused the same kind of hateful anti-protest event?”
“I don’t know, but one of the things I have learned from being an advocate in courts is — the other side doesn’t pick your language,” Schultz, a practicing trial lawyer, said. “You pick your language. And the reason it’s important to say the words – black lives matter – is simply because they do.”
Welch asked – “Larry, when you hear someone say – yeah, but all lives matter – what goes through your head when you hear that?”
“Actually what went through my head came out of my mouth innumerable times. I was proud to be able to say from the podium when I heard all lives matter – Thanks, because if all lives matter, then black lives matter. You can’t have all lives matter until black lives matter.”
“And just look at what happened since the rally. They shot a father of three seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin because he did not obey their orders to halt – in front of his children. That’s what it looks like to me.”
Schultz said that the speakers at the Friday rally included West Virginia Delegate Sammi Brown, labor organizer Stuart Acuff, and Cathy Kunkel, the Democratic candidate for Congress.
“Cathy stood up and attempted to speak as they shouted her down,” Schultz said. “But the first person who got up to speak was an ordained minister who was going to say an invocation. She was shouted down with shouts of ‘USA.’ We said – wait a minute. This is a prayer. It didn’t help.”
Mario asked – did you have any idea ahead of time that this event was going to turn into one side shouting over the other side?
“I certainly knew that there was going to have to be a large police presence,” Schultz said. “The anti-rally people on Facebook made numerous veiled and not so veiled threats of gunfire in a state park in a small town – in Berkeley Springs.”
What drives this kind of hatred? Welch asked.
“If you look at the economic data since the mid-1970s, you can see that the middle class has been corroded badly,” Schultz said. “The middle class is smaller than it used to be. That makes people economically afraid. Plus from time to time there are these giant recessions that wipe people out financially. There is a great deal of intentionally caused economic insecurity in the middle class.”
“When questions of race, culture and skin tone begin to be discussed, one of the things that a factory worker in Milwaukee sees is that if his company is purchased by the right capitalist, they could replace him with someone who would take less money because they are more desperate. And there are politicians who gin up and fan the flames of that sort of insecurity, and so people are afraid.”
“Most of this is fear. I know that it is disrespectful of me to say that the guys with their big AR-15s strapped over their backs are afraid. But many of the threats we got are based upon a fear of the unknown, or an economic insecurity.”
Mario said that the people who showed up for the anti-rally were probably watching the violence in Portland and elsewhere around the country and said — “you may not be bringing that to Berkeley Springs or you may –”
“They weren’t nearly so equivocal about it as you say, Rob,” Schultz said. “They weren’t saying — you may or you may not be. They were saying — you are bringing that to Berkeley Springs. But the terrorism was already there. And it raised its head.”
Mario asked — would it have been a big leap for you Larry, as an educated man who works as a volunteer with abusers in relationships, could you really not have seen this being the end result of this rally?
“I could have seen this being the end result of that,” Schultz said. “And to me — the idea that because they are going to act like terrorists then I am then going to abandon those kids is unacceptable.”