Some Context On Andrew Breitbart’s Epic Rant To CPAC Occupiers
What was Andrew Breitbart yelling about, anyway?
This video I took for Campus Progress on Friday of the conservative blogger-star screaming like a madman at “Occupy CPAC” protesters quickly went viral, garnering about 250,000 views as of this posting. You might say Breitbart “meme’d” himself with instant-classic lines like “Stop raping people!” and “Behaaaave yourself!” (We’re just waiting for the auto-tuned remix.)
A lot of commenters wondered if Breitbart was drunk, and this video from WND strongly suggests that he was. In the video, as Breitbart is preparing to go confront the crowd, somebody off-camera says that it would look bad to do so with a glass of wine in his hand.
“So what? We’re allowed to drink wine in America!” Breitbart says*. Soon after, there’s a sound of breaking glass. [Breitbart maintains that he was not drunk. You decide.]
After his outburst at the protesters, Breitbart gave WND an entertainingly conspiracy theory-filled interview on his thoughts about the Occupy movement.
“They’re certainly organized by the same international anarchist and international socialist groups … funded by the [Service Employees International Union] who support Barack Obama,” he says. “The connections between Obama and this group of people is absolute. … This is his shock troops. … He’s borrowed their phrases? No, he created their phrases.”
Breitbart seemed to think his behavior was perfectly acceptable; he posted my video to his own website in a post titled “Breitbart Confronts Occupy Thugs at Conservative Conference,” attempting to pass it off as one man’s heroic stand against a froth-mouthed mob:
Occupy DC protesters stormed the Marriott hotel that was hosting an annual conservative conference Friday night. Their actions forced a lock-down of the hotel's exit keeping the attendees, many of whom were students, from exiting or entering the hotel.
Amidst chants of “racist, sexist, anti-gay,” Andrew Breitbart slipped past security and single-handedly confronted the crowd who were attempting to intrude on the conservative citizens' rights to freely assemble and speak.
Never mind the protesters’ assembly rights, of course, or the freedom guaranteed to the press covering them.
Slate’s Dave Weigel reported being threatened with arrest at a protest earlier in the day and said CPAC organizers were trying to minimize media attention of Occupy protests. The lockdown Breitbart complained about was as much about that as it was about protecting the attendees from rabble-rousers.
As for the clash that led up to Breitbart’s outburst, I caught some video of that, too. So did independent livestream journalist Tim Pool (around 16:00) and Occupy Roanoke, Va., livestreamer Courtney Moses (around 6:50, or 12:19 to see her view of Breitbart’s rant; she’s the one you can hear saying “I never raped anybody!” in my video of Breitbart).
Fewer than a hundred protesters were standing and chanting in the driveway outside the hotel entrance to the CPAC convention, and they were beat back by some Washington, DC police officers and hotel security earlier in the evening.
It’s not totally clear how the confrontation started—Pool reported protesters were just standing their ground while one CPAC attendee told me she saw a protester “bum-rush” the cops—but some officers were filmed actually swinging their shields as a weapon. I also saw one hit an elderly protester. (I really thought I’d seen enough riot shield action for one week.)
When Breitbart first started yelling “Behave yourself!” at the occupiers, one protester replied, “Tell that to the cops!”
Security and police also seemed to have little interest in letting members of the media record what was going on. Pool, who had full CPAC media credentials, was kept back from the protests by security, who told him he must either go back inside the hotel or choose to join the protest. I was pushed in two different directions by two different officers, and Moses was shoved away as well. I was met with silence when I told officers I was press and (after I stopped recording) asked where I should go to get back safely.
A CPAC-credentialed editor with The Washington Times was arrested for assault on a police officer (also seen in Pool’s stream around the 27:00 mark). She was reportedly the only arrest in the clash.
Meanwhile, the CPAC conference featured a panel encouraging more conservatives to become citizen journalists, an ironic call to action given that citizen journalism has been a defining feature of the Occupy movement and given the convention’s actions towards media at the protests.
“They don’t believe in free press,” Breitbart told WDN about Occupy. “These people are trying to take people’s rights away.”
Shortly after his screed, things had calmed down and the street was full of CPAC attendees and occupiers debating each other once again—some heatedly, but most ending with cordial handshakes. I even saw a few hugs.
It seems people behaved themselves just fine.
*This sentence has been changed; it previously reported that Breitbart slurred in the video, which he denies.
Emily Crockett is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @emilycrockett.