As reported on Thursday by Newsbusters' Mark Finkelstein, Joe Scarborough and some members of his MSNBC Morning Joe crew shot their mouths off about what Mike Barnicle described as a "police riot" at the Occupy Oakland protests before waiting for all the facts. And now it appears that the Morning Joe folks have shot themselves in the foot as well since reports from the scene show that it was the police who were clearly provoked by the Occupy Oakland demonstrators.
So were these reports from the usual "rightwing" suspects? Nope. The reports confirming the provocations from the demonstrators came from the leftwing Mother Jones magazine and were supported by the very liberal San Francisco Chronicle. Here is the initial report from the scene by James West of Mother Jones:
Violence came in waves. Many demonstrators peace-saluted police and called through bullhorns: "This is a peaceful protest! This is a civilian movement!" But from the moment I arrived in Oakland at 10:15 p.m., I saw a visible minority spoiling for conflict. Tinder had built across the night at the intersection of 14th Street and Broadway, a mixture of expectation and adrenaline...
...Xavier Manalo, a 25-year-old tennis instructor holding the forward-most protest banner, admitted there were "rogue elements" in the group but insisted the "pressure of the peaceful will be the deterrent" to the violence.
Manalo was wrong. I saw groups of protestors arguing, not only with the police—who were the constant subject of heckling and catcalls—but with each other. There were calls to retaliate by throwing things like eggs back over the barricade, just as a big group of around 40 people started to chant, "Don't Throw Shit! Don't Throw Shit!"
But it sounds like that is exactly what the Morning Joe team of Joe Scarborough, Mike Barnicle, and Willie Geist were throwing when they made their unsubstantiated charges about a "police riot" before waiting for the facts.
...At the height of this melee, I saw two men throw bottles at the police.
Were those a couple of the "peaceful demonstrators" that Willie Geist was referring to?
Another bottle was hurled from the crowd and tear gas canisters were lobbed back.
Time now to remember the Harold Ford, Jr. quote from that show about the Oakland police: "They created hysteria for no reason."
As the protesters filtered away, I spoke with a group of tired cops covered in blue and orange paint—and that wasn't all, said one sergeant who wouldn't give his name. He said they'd also been pelted with glass and vinegar, and one officer claimed to have tasted urine in the mix.
The hardly conservative San Francisco Chronicle also confirmed that the paint tossing Oakland protesters were far from peaceful:
Police gave repeated warnings to protesters to disperse from the entrance to Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th Street and Broadway before firing several tear gas canisters into the crowd at about 7:45 p.m.
...Police forcibly dispersed the crowd with tear gas again about 9:30 p.m., when protesters began throwing objects at them...
...Protesters threw turquoise and red paint at the riot officers. Some led the crowd in chanting, "This is why we call you pigs."
...some protesters tried to fight with police and were clubbed and kicked in return...
A note to the Morning Joe crew (Mika Brzezinski excepted): A police response is not the same as a police riot. Even some protesters on the scene showed more common sense about what was really happening than the Morning Joe crew:
Some protesters who avoided conflict and wanted to show their support for the Occupy Wall Street movement were displeased by the violent turns.
"They didn't have to force police into that situation," said Helen Walker, 46, a nurse from Albany. "It was totally provoked, and if I could have, I would have stopped those idiots from throwing paint."
And these provocations by the Occupy Oakland gang were hardly rare:
Toward the end of the night, protesters continued throwing objects at officers, only to be tear gassed in return.
So it appears that the Morning Joe crew owe their viewers a collective "OOPS!" and an apology for jumping to conclusions about a "police riot" before all the facts were in. One fringe benefit of such an apology would be the disapproving glare on Willie Geist's face which has been hilariously described by Jon Stewart.
Meanwhile Mika earns bonus points for being the voice of reason on Morning Joe in this situation for urging the others to WAIT until more facts come in before hurling unsubstantiated charges at the Oakland police.