On Thursday, investigators arrested a 29-year-old man who they believe is connected to the
devastating fire at the Penny Flats residential and retail building in Old Town. Almost immediately news organizations linked the man, Benjamin David Gilmore, to the Occupy Fort Collins movement and went wild with the information.
Since then, the media narrative around the arrest has focused almost exclusively on his connection with the controversial protests. Itâ€™s important that readers do not take these news stories as a chance to characterize the entire Occupy movement.
It makes sense for news organizations to report on the suspectâ€™s connection to the Occupy movement, but framing entire stories around this one factor in the manâ€™s life seems to have a hidden message.
The Coloradoanâ€™s first headline for the story read, â€œOccupy Fort Collins activist suspected of Old Town fire.â€ This also could have easily been, â€œRegistered Republican suspected of Old Town Fire,â€ or â€œBee keeper suspected of Old Town Fireâ€ â€“â€“ both of these statements are also true.
So far, this man has not been found guilty of starting the fires, and there is no evidence that connects Occupy to what happened at Penny Flats. At this point, his work as a protester is just a convenient coincidence that the media likes to take advantage of.
And already people have read these stories and taken them as an opportunity to sling mud at the Occupy protesters.
Instead of focusing anger at the larger Occupy movement, we should provide those impacted by the fire with our sympathies. And as always, we should not draw unnecessary conclusions.