So much for Feb. 14 being a day of love.
At least not in Booneville, Arkansas.
Tuesday afternoon of last week Booneville became the focus of international attention due to the release of a video depicting a one-sided fight between two minor males, and hatred of almost anything connected to the city was at a frenzied peak on Valentine’s Day.
Condemnations came from far and not so far.
Following the release of the video the school, Booneville Police Department, the Booneville Democrat, Booneville Chamber of Commerce and scores of others in and from Booneville were inundated with calls, emails and texts. The context was largely negative and typically vulgar.
The BPD had so many Facebook interactions on its page BPD Chief Al Brown unpublished the page. That didn’t stop those who had an opinion they wanted to share.
“We’ve received numerous phone calls (at the BPD) cussing us out,” Brown said Wednesday. “And they’re from people that are not from here, and they don’t have all the facts.”
Facts like, the smaller minor in the video is not, according to his parents, mentally challenged; that the incident had already been dealt with by the school, though it did not happen on school property; additionally, along those same lines, that the school did nothing because the larger male is a football player; or that the police department was ignoring the incident, apparently writing it off as boys being boys when they in fact the BPD learned of the video through Facebook as well.
None of that mattered Tuesday. None of that mattered on Valentine’s Day.
The school district, especially the high school, had calls. A lot of them. Residents of New York, Texas and other individuals chimed in their thoughts. The calls began on Tuesday after the video went viral — there were about a half million views on Tuesday alone — and continued to come in throughout Wednesday from those who couldn’t get through before school personnel went home for the day Tuesday, or who discovered the video after school hours.
As if it were oblivious to the situation in the town it covers, the Democrat was implored to cover the story. Requests to write letters to the editor came in from Indiana and other parts, and others issued threats to those involved, coming from as far away as Canada.
The larger of the two involved in the fight, nor those immediately connected to him, were remotley immune.
Once phone numbers for the larger male in the video, and his guardian were discovered, and published on social media sites, their phones “blew up,” as the saying goes. Facebook accounts were also linked.
There were so many texts and calls, mostly spewing hate, phone numbers had to be changed to stem the tide of vicious commentary.
The Chamber of Commerce was likewise inundated with calls, many containing threats, veiled and otherwise. Those came from Oregon and other points.
Many of those posting about the video on social media indicated there would, or should be a protest at the high school Wednesday morning.
Student Resource Officer Norm Wilder, who conducted the investigation into the matter, was on site in case — removing him from his normal duties at the district’s elementary school.