On Tuesday, MN350 Action, a political group focused on “climate justice,” tried to promote a video on Facebook.
The video showed protesters being surrounded by men in uniform and beaten with sticks. Some fell to the ground. Some were dragged off by the leg or the elbow. Some took blows right to the face as they were stooping to help others.
The group had originally published the video as a routine, unpaid post, but wanted to pay a little extra to get a larger audience. That’s when Facebook rejected the group’s request, calling the video “too violent.”
MN350 Action’s communications director, Brett Benson, is more than a little peeved. Yes, he says, the video is violent. Water protectors trying to stop the progress of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota were beaten by Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies.
“You can’t look away from this stuff,” Benson says. “It’s violent, but it’s the real world.”
The events depicted in the video happened in 2016, under the jurisdiction of current Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. Stanek, Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart, and Washington County Sheriff William Hutton all sent deputies to the protests, on the grounds that local law enforcement needed backup. "Public safety,” Stanek told MPR, should never be “partisan” or “political.”
MN350 Action posted the video as a political ad in favor of his opponent for the sheriff’s race: Democratic pick Dave “Hutch” Hutchinson.
MN350 Action submitted an appeal to Facebook, which was rejected sometime between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. The social media site didn’t respond to interview requests about what is or is not too violent to advertise, but its advertising guidelines warn not to include content that “may shock or scare viewers,” is “scary, gory, or sensational,” or is “depicting violence or threats of violence.”
Benson isn’t a fan of Facebook’s decision to reject the ad -- he sees it as a perpetuation of the status quo, of power protecting itself against change -- but he also sees it as pretty ironic.
In response, the group posted a still from the video with the following caption:
“Too violent for Facebook, but not for Rich Stanek.”