5 People Who Got Caught Trying To Use Protests For Their IG Aesthetic

By Sara Levine | June 5, 2020

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Right now, a lot of celebrities are using their platforms to speak out about systemic racism, offer resources for how white people can continue to learn and help, and highlight peaceful protests. And many influencers are opening dialogues about race, highlighting Black-owned businesses to support, and sharing information about government officials to contact to demand change. But as with just about anything, other influencers and wannabe influencers alike are co-opting these powerful protests against police brutality and using them for likes. And this is why we can’t have nice things. Here are a few stories of clout-chasing gone wrong.

Jake Paul

Everyone’s least favorite YouTuber and the word “jackass” personified, Jake Paul, was captured on video at a mall in Scottsdale as it was being looted last weekend. While videos didn’t show the walking Twitter apology himself participating in the looting, he was in the crowd (and on camera) with other people who were doing it, and he didn’t exactly try to stop them. He has now been charged with criminal trespass and unlawful assembly, both misdemeanors. Paul said on Twitter that he was not participating in the looting; he was simply documenting it: “To be absolutely clear, neither I nor anyone in our group was engaged in any looting or vandalism,” he wrote, adding that he and his group were “not engaging.” He and his fellow Wrong Brother, Logan Paul, did post a video to their YouTube page and podcast urging white people to “acknowledge and weaponize” their privilege, and calling people who don’t believe white privilege exists “delusional”, though, so maybe we don’t have to throw the whole man away.

Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin

In Santa Monica, a white woman got exposed for posing with a drill in front of a boarded up storefront, doing a quick photo op to make it look as if she was helping, and then promptly leaving the scene, probably to go to brunch or something. According to CBSLA, the woman, who was later identified as Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin, was a commentary writer at the conservative publication Washington Examiner before getting dismissed after the video went viral. (A Heavy article later referred to her as an intern. Burn.) Fiona posed with the power drill quickly while a man took her photo, before driving away in her black Mercedes, gabbing about her boyfriend being a good Instagram boyfriend. Lmfao. It’s so bad I almost want to think it’s performance art, for my own sanity. She ended up deleting her accounts, which is the correct response.

The Girl Who Took A Pic In Front Of A Smashed T-Mobile

On @influencersinthewild, a young woman who has not been identified was captured on video posing in front of a smashed T-mobile, with her back to the camera, as a man took her picture. I’ve got to wonder what the caption on this post was going to be—I have a feeling it probably would have been about how “I support the right to peacefully protest but I just cannot stand by and watch innocent small businesses get destroyed”. What is even the use of taking or having a picture like this?? Do your 500 closest family and friends really need to see it? Why do you need to be in the picture at all?? Instagram boyfriends, please step up and refuse to let your girlfriends participate in this buffoonery.

Two Girls Who Pregamed and Went

Going to a protest right now is not like going to Coachella, or even the Women’s March—it requires strategic physical and mental preparation because there are risks of violence involved. What it definitely does not require is you putting on your cutest outfit, pregaming, and then heading out to take a few pictures with a homemade sign. And yet, that’s exactly what Instagram user @serafina.0 and her friend @tamella_kay did: they had a whole chat debating if they should go or not, decided to get drunk and then show up, but perhaps worst of all? They posted a screenshot of their convo to their Insta Stories (Close Friends, at least—smh, it be ya own close friends), probably thinking this convo made them sound quirky and cute. 

Well, it didn’t. @tamella_kay ended up deleting her account, and @serafina.0 went private.

It might sound like I’m just trying to drag influencers for the fun of it, but the truth is, attending a Black Lives Matter protest isn’t just like, a fun event to go to for clout or to say you went. Although the majority of protests have been peaceful, there is still a chance you could get hurt, given that police have acted violently towards protestors, firing rubber bullets, teargassing, and even driving police vehicles through crowds. Especially if you are attending as a white ally, you need to be prepared that you may be needed to use your body as a physical shield for Black protestors. 

There are a lot of tips and resources for people attending protests out there, so I’ll just state a few that these influencers egregiously ignored. Number one, don’t pregame! You are going to need to have all your wits about you, and alcohol just makes you dumb and slow. Not to mention, it can make some people belligerent, which is extra dangerous if you’re going to be in a heated atmosphere in the presence of agitated police officers. Don’t wear contact lenses, wear comfortable shoes that you can walk in, and do not post videos or photos of protestors’ faces without their explicit permission. Maybe the one thing all these influencers got right is that you shouldn’t go alone and should go with a buddy or in a group if possible, but that’s about it. The bottom line is, it’s great to want to get involved, and do that if you feel comfortable and willing, but don’t do it for your Instagram aesthetic.

Stay safe if you are protesting, and if not, there are plenty of other ways you can help. You can donate to organizations or donate supplies to organizers, sign petitions, literally annoy the sh*t out of your local representatives, and more.

Influencers In The Wild (@influencersinthewild on Instagram and @influencersitw on Twitter) is doing a much more comprehensive job of covering people who are treating the Black Lives Matter protests like it’s Coachella 2020, so follow those accounts if you want more of influencers gone wrong.

Images: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com; jakepaul, taylorlorenz, influencersitw, goodgalbadrep / Twitter