Written by Gabriel Dillard
Here we are.
After days of peaceful protesting, Fresno faces a true test this afternoon. A ridiculous social media post circulating states that rioting is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the River Park shopping center in north Fresno. The post calls for riots to extend from River Park to Fashion Fair, which until recently have been shuttered due to coronavirus protection orders.
When civil unrest spills out into the public sphere, businesses always pay a price. Whether they are looted, burnt down, vandalized or shuttered, free enterprise invariably bears outrage over systemic racism that keeps people of color subjugated.
Here are some thoughts about how injustice and disinformation sows fear:
— I truly believe whoever created this post has no true intention of rioting. It’s a low effort joke made to provoke. It’s a troll. Unfortunately, they received the attention they wanted, so mission accomplished.
— Good, bad or indifferent, the message was amplified, first on social media, then secondary media outlets, and finally all legacy media outlets. It makes sense. One classic definition of news is something out of the ordinary that could potentially affect a great number of people. Scheduled riots at River Park and Fashion Fair Mall fit that mold to a tee, no matter how improbable it sounds.
— With that amplification, a troll job becomes a happening. Indeed, media will be there. Law enforcement will undoubtedly be there. I’m debating whether it’s safe to send a reporter out there. With media attention comes grandstanders, not to mention people who believe the original lie. Those could be people who really want to riot. Or people who want to confront looters.
My hope is that nothing will happen. We reached out to Tracy Kashian, vice president of public relations & marketing for Lance-Kashian & Co., owner of River Park. We didn’t hear back immediately, but the most prudent move is to block access to the entire shopping center. Why take the risk to remain open? The same applies to Fashion Fair Mall, which did close this weekend due to fears of rioting.
We’ve seen media reports that stores at the shopping center are preparing for the worst. The best-case scenario is that they won’t be open today. As far as the worst-case scenario, it’s better to hope for the best outcome that will allow small business owners to continue employing Fresnans and contributing to the economy.
Trolls, stay home today.