CHICAGO — Black Lives Matter is being blamed for the kidnapping and torture of a man with disabilities, though the group and police said it has no connection to what happened.
Police said they are investigating the incident, which happened Tuesday on the West Side. Some of the torture was recorded and streamed on Facebook, showing a man, who appears to be white, being beaten, berated and cut with a knife by a group of four people, who appear to be black. At one point, one of the abusers says "f--- white people."
People — some with millions or hundreds of thousands of followers, like pundit Glenn Beck — shared the video and story of what happened and said Black Lives Matter had been behind the abuse.
Yet at no point in video of the incident do any of the abusers say anything about BLM, and Black Lives Matter Chicago said none of the people from the video are associated with the group in any way.
A Chicago Police spokesman said there was no known connection between the incident and BLM, and he said he was unsure why people were spreading that message since police never said it.
You are right. Stand up with me and demand justice in Chicago for the beating of a disabled trump supporter by BLM https://t.co/aP79pKnHA1— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) January 5, 2017
"It's just morbid," said Kofi Ademola Xola, an activist with BLM Chicago. "It's sadistic and sociopathic, as far as I'm concerned, that people would use this young man's tragedy as a way to galvanize other people to generalize all black people, first of all, and then specifically target BLM Chicago."
The hashtag #BLMKidnapping, which seems to blame the incident on BLM, began trending nationally on Twitter as the apparently false story spread.
Some people are disgusting. Your making jokes!?What happened to the teenager is terrible & tragic. However it has nothing to do with BLM. pic.twitter.com/f7qit5Ym6z— BLMChicago (@BLMChi) January 5, 2017
Others directly attacked BLM Chicago, a branch of the national BLM group that has pushed for racial equality and an end to police violence, among other things.
BLM Chicago thinks the hashtag — and the attempts to blame BLM for what happened — probably originated among alt-right groups, Ademola said. Those sharing the false story are trying to paint with a "broad brush" and associate BLM with "anything negative that happens," Ademola said.
The alt-right, which has gained national attention in recent months, is associated with racist ideologies, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Leaders of the alt-right like Richard Spencer were among those who shared the #BLMKidnapping hashtag.
Remember the #blmkidnapping every time some journalist lies about my white advocacy organization and calls it a hate group.— Richard 🐸 Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) January 5, 2017
"To attack us ... it's ridiculous," Ademola said. "The reality is it's a very calculated, malicious attempt to undermine the legitimate justice that we're fighting for and to potentially advocate violence being perpetuated against us."
BLM Chicago has been receiving threats, Ademola said, with one person saying he'd attack Ademola if he saw him in the street. Another person contacted BLM Chicago and said he or she was "praying" a black kid with disabilities would be beaten by white people so the group could see how it feels, Ademola said.
But Ademola said BLM Chicago is advocating for the victim to receive mental health care, counseling and access to resources that can help him recover.
At the same time, the group is pushing for people to think about the systemic conditions and systems in Chicago that led to the incident, Ademola said, noting that the violence perpetrated by the abusers could be connected to the "inter-communal violence" faced by many in the city.
"What trauma, what conditions, have these young people experienced that would make them sort of do this harm?" Ademola said.
Addressing those issues would help prevent similar incidents in the future, Ademola said.