Jerry Ford Jr., on his way home from class, thought the man sitting outside his apartment building was a University of Houston student who had been locked out. But before Ford, a graduate public policy student at UH, could even put his key in the door, the man pulled out a gun and pointed it at his face. He took Ford's wallet and his phone, running off into nearby MacGregor Park.
In the days following, Ford would talk with other students, the community at large and eventually KTRK about his experience — making otherwise normal comments that would soon be blown out of proportion across the country.
In the news clip, titled “Students Concerned About Increased Crime Near University of Houston Main Campus,” Ford and a few other students talk about recent crimes they've experienced or heard about, concerned about the fact that, since they live off campus, UH security does not patrol the area surrounding the Campus Vue apartments. The students, including Ford, hoped UH officials would change their mind about that.
But there was a difference in how news outlets portrayed Ford's case: He was labeled “one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement," which Ford said was misleading. Even though he supports the movement, he is not directly tied to local BLM chapters and is only an independent activist.
Apparently his support for Black Lives Matter was a huge problem for conservative media. Because apparently, according to Fox News and the like, it is very strange and also newsworthy if black people who call for the end to police brutality also want protection from crime in their neighborhoods — especially if they are labeled a “BLM leader.”
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“These blogs, these people really created a narrative,” Ford said. “They painted me out to be this guy calling for cops to be killed, then calling for more police.” He added that he has actually interviewed with the local Fox News station before, explaining, “you can stand against police brutality, but you can't equate police brutality with anti-police.” That message has apparently not resonated with right-wing conservatives quite yet.
Headlines across the Internet read, “BLM leader robbed by black mugger—calls for more cops,” “Black Lives Matter Leader Who Was Robbed Suddenly Wants More Cops,” and, at the biggest outlet of all — Fox News U.S.— “Black Lives Matter activist changes tune on police following robbery.” Airing the story on national television, a sassy anchor opens the story with a 2014 clip showing marchers in New York chanting “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it! Now!” Then cutting to Ford.
Ford said the disingenuous “news” clip has not only led Internet trolls to taunt him, but has also led the African-American community to distrust him.
“Now people in the African-American community are thinking I'm calling for armies of officers to be coming into black communities that are already over-policed,” Ford said, “when the whole issue was about University of Houston security communicating with an off-campus apartment building.”