Zak Wear has had both a terrible and productive month.
This is how to turn lemons into lemonade.
A Richmond resident and key player in Tom Butt’s successful mayoral campaign, Wear launched an anti-bullying campaign this month targeting vandals and looters at protests. The inspiration for his latest campaign derives from a high-profile incident at a recent Berkeley protest during which he was assaulted for attempting to deter vandals.
On Dec. 10, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Justin Berton posted a Youtube video that apparently shows what happened right after the attack at the protest, which was related to police killings of unarmed black men. Wear was assaulted after trying to put out a Dumpster fire started by vandals at Telegraph and 21st, Berton reported. He was attacked by three masked men.
Despite losing two teeth in the assault, Wear stood his ground against the Dumpster vandals. The video shows a woman cussing angrily at him for his vigilance.
“This harms our ability to protest,” Wear told her and a small crowd.
(Beware, this video contains a lot of explicit language)
Following the attack, Butt’s top strategist rushed to Wear’s aid. Alex Knox, the mayor-elect’s campaign coordinator who has just been named director of community relations for the Richmond Mayor’s Office, started an online fundraiser for his colleague’s dental bills. The campaign exceeded its stated goal of raising $5,000.
They were not the only pearls of Knox’s fundraising effort. Through the fundraiser, Wear had the opportunity to make clear that, as he states, the recent “Black Lives Matter” protests are just and necessary and not to be confused with the small contingent of violent people who seek to hijack the message. Folks should stand up to all bullies, not just unlawful police but also violent vandals, Wear has stated.
“I’ve been working very hard to make this story in the press not be about how these are brutal protesters,” Wear said. “But instead there are a lot of amazing people out there, a lot of angels who are walking through the streets who should be trusted, who should be listened to, and who should be empowered.”
The message has continued to spread in news reports and on social media. The more than 100 people who donated to Wear’s fundraiser certainly got the message. Butt shared the campaign with his nearly 1,000 Facebook followers. As of this writing, the campaign had 232 Facebook shares. The Richmond Confidential, UC Berkeley’s progressive-leaning news publication and cheerleader for the Richmond Progressive Alliance, of which Wear is a member, jumped on the story.
In a KRON4 report posted two days ago, Wear seized another opportunity to spread the message, making the point that he opposes both “criminal” and “political” bullies.
“Absolutely I have gone back out and joined the protest again,” he said. “I think it’s very, very important that citizens remain engaged with simply the social change of this country.”
While two teeth were lost, zero opportunities were wasted in this campaign, including a prominent plug for the Richmond Progressive Alliance.
Displayed prominently in the background of the KRON4 video is a poster promoting the RPA, the group that backed Butt for mayor and includes current Mayor Gayle McLaughlin as a member. The poster conveniently states RPA’s name in full along with a protest picture and the headline, “Funding Violence Prevention.”
As they say, free advertising doesn’t come cheap. Clever strategy is involved. And as it appears by the people supporting him, Mayor-elect Butt will have little trouble in his first term turning political punches into opportunities.