What's Tony Thinking

Both Sides Now


In one recent blog I wrote that the extremes on left and right, which command the attention of the media and therefore much of our attention, have a lot in common. Both are off their respective deep end. Oddly enough, both too, are playing identity politics. Only on behalf of different groups/ tribes.

In another recent piece I suggested that to people who are centrist or center-right, the violence on college campuses  may look a lot like what happened on January 6 in the Capitol. We liberals are all in on the outrage over Jan. 6, but may overlook similar behaviors on the left.

Just to be clear: I understand that the January 6 attack on the Capitol was singular. It was an attempt to keep electoral votes from being counted and to prevent the legitimate transfer of power.

Those are high stakes and not the same as recent campus protests — although some of us probably do revere great universities as much we do the U.S. Capitol. Moreover, I understand how some may feel that the left or progressives give a pass to bad actors to whose causes they are more sympathetic.

In an article from The Free Press by reporter, Francesca Block, she reports on the encampment and the takeover of Hamilton Hall. Her reporting left me thinking, this sounds a lot like January 6, 2020, at leasts from the perspective of the Columbia maintenance staff person, Mario Torres, at work in Hamilton Hall as it was taken over by pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas protestors. Here’s Block:

“It’s the viral image (copyrighted photo shows masked James Carlson and Mario Torres scuffling) that captured the clash between the anti-Israel protesters who stormed Columbia and the campus workers who tried to stop them. As the mob invaded Hamilton Hall in the early hours of April 30, a facilities worker was photographed pushing a demonstrator against a wall.

“Later, it emerged that the protester was a 40-year-old trust fund kid named James Carlson, who owns a townhouse in Brooklyn worth $2.3 million. The man who tried to hold him back was Mario Torres, 45, who has worked at Columbia—where the average janitor makes less than $19 an hour—for five years.

” . . . Mario Torres describes the experience of being on duty as protesters stormed the building in the early hours of the morning, breaking glass and barricading the entrances. ‘We don’t expect to go to work and get swarmed by an angry mob with rope and duct tape and masks and gloves,’ he said.

“’They came from both sides of the staircases. They came through the elevators and they were just rushing. It was just like, they had a plan.’ Mario said protesters with zip ties, duct tape, and masks ‘just multiplied and multiplied.’

“At one point, he remembers ‘looking up and I noticed the cameras are covered.’ It made him think: ‘This was definitely planned.’

“Torres was trying to ‘protect the building’ when he ended up in an altercation with Carlson: ‘He had a Columbia hoodie on, and I managed to rip that hoodie off of him and expose his face.’ (Carlson was later charged with five felonies, including burglary and reckless endangerment.) ‘I was freaking out. At that point, I’m thinking about my family. How was I gonna get out? Through the window?’

“Torres has not been to campus since the incident. He says he does not feel safe. ‘When it comes to the public safety, the workers’ safety, people don’t feel comfortable walking through a mob to punch in to get into campus. That’s crazy,’ he said.

“He added that he’s worried Columbia might take disciplinary action against him for speaking out. He worries about losing a job he loves. He worries about supporting his young family.”

And your point? Criminal behavior is criminal behavior whether it is in support of left or right-wing causes. And, who pays the price? The normal guys and gals, the little people, the Mario Torres and Michael Fanones (U.S. Capitol police officer) of the world, who end up on the front lines, whether at the U.S. Capitol or Columbia University.

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