Denver Newsroom, Aug 12, 2020 / 14:35 pm
If you perused the news online on Saturday, Aug. 1, you could be forgiven for believing that large-scale Bible burnings— the kind perpetrated by the Nazis in the 1930s— were taking place in the apparently Godless streets of Portland, Oregon.
Dozens of news stories from Aug. 1 repeated a claim from a Malaysia-based journalist that “a stack” of Bibles had been consumed in a bonfire, built by protestors in the middle of the street.
But after more than a week of those stories, the pendulum has swung the other way. Spurred by an extensive analysis of the incident by the New York Times, many media outlets have begun to dismiss the reports of the Bible-burning incident as overblown and misleading; one outlet even labeling the story “Russian propaganda.”
So what’s the truth?
The evidence suggests that reports of a burning “stack” of Bibles were not accurate. But the Bible-burning incident was not completely fictional, and there is no evidence that what did happen was insignificant or meaningless.
Protestors burned at least two Bibles in the streets of Portland that night. A livestream filmed at the protest shows them burning. That fact is undisputed.
By Aug. 1, large-scale protests and riots had been taking place in Portland for over two months, and protestors had set numerous fires amid the demonstrations. On July 26, police even reported that protestors had attempted to burn the courthouse itself to the ground.
The protests often have taken the form of crowds of hundreds of masked people protesting, ostensibly, against racism, police brutality, and fascism. Federal agents responding to the protests have garnered criticism for using tear gas and other forceful methods against protesters.
Some of the protests have been accompanied by riots and looting. In addition to extensive property damage in the city’s downtown, there have been incidents of violence within or adjacent to the protests, including shootings and stabbings.