While the protests fighting against racial inequality and police brutality following George Floyd’s death have been largely peaceful, they’ve been tarnished by a looting minority.
Images of smashed shopfronts and burnt out vehicles that stretch across dozens of US cities from San Francisco to New York City have been widely condemned by politicians and locals alike.
Yet the narrative surrounding the ugly side of the protests hasn’t stopped “Instagram models” from eyeing up a potential photo opportunity amid the destruction.
As communities rallied together to clean up debris and board up businesses, two women have been filmed posing for images outside badly-damaged stores, accused of selfishly thinking of themselves ahead of businesses that have been firstly brought to their knees by coronavirus and now a disruptive minority.
In one video, a woman is seen posing with her back to the camera outside a ransacked T-Mobile store in LA’s Santa Monica as a male companion takes a photo.
The woman, who is believed to be a former UCLA cheerleader, has been slammed for her actions on social media.
The Twitter user who uploaded the clip declared: “These protesters are not a content opportunity for you.”
Basketball superstar LeBron James also condemned the woman’s behaviour, saying “they’ll do anything for clout!”
Others called her actions “embarrassing” and “disgusting” and urged her to help businesses instead of capitalising on their misfortune.
“It’s just disgraceful. Just shows what they care about most: posing,” one person wrote.
Another video to garner significant attention shows a woman posing with a workman’s drill next to a boarded up store front after asking him to take a photo of her.
Another man is seen taking photos of her before he and the woman get into a parked Mercedes.
“Boyfriends of Instagram... good job guys!” a woman sarcastically shouts at them off camera.
“This lady stopped someone boarding up a store in Santa Monica so she could hold the drill for a picture, then drove away,” the video’s caption read on Twitter.
“Please don’t do this.”
“Influencers: use your platform for actual good, not the perception of good,” the user who shared the video said in the comments.
Former US director of the US office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub described the video as “vile”.
Singer Pink called the woman “entitled” and a “horrible person”.
This lady stopped someone boarding up a store in Santa Monica so she could hold the drill for a picture, then drove away. Please don’t do this. #santamonicaprotest #BlackLivesMatter #BlackLivesMatterLA pic.twitter.com/lgt2rZogk9— ewu (@ewufortheloss) June 1, 2020
Social media misuse an ongoing trend, expert warns
Social media users taking advantage of other people’s misfortune is nothing new.
A wave of influencers have previously taken the opportunity to use natural disasters or events that have caused widespread destruction and even death in their content.
In recent years, hashtags for the Sri Lankan Easter Sunday bombings, Australia’s unprecedented bushfire season and the coronavirus pandemic have been hijacked by social media users appearing to boost their social media presence.
Social media expert Ryan Shelley, founder and managing director of Pepper IT, previously told Yahoo News Australia such behaviour was “shallow” and “unacceptable”.
“Social media is a powerful platform for communities to come together. Regrettably, some people continue to take advantage of devastating events and circumstances,” he said.
Mr Shelley said some people may be oblivious to whether they’re doing anything wrong at all.
“It all comes back to someone’s moral compass and the self-regulation that occurs within their social communities. It often requires one’s peers to provide feedback that will resonate.”
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