While the 24-hour news cycle yesterday was dominated by the terrorist attack in Paris, another story was the central topic of conversation for many users on Twitter. On Tuesday morning, an improvised explosive device detonated outside the NAACP’s Colorado Springs, Colorado building.
No one was injured when the device detonated against the exterior wall of the building on South El Paso Street, which shares space with a barbershop, and the building itself suffered superficial damage. A gasoline can was placed next to the device, but was not ignited by the explosion. Law enforcement has not released information to suggest that the intended target was the NAACP.
A joint statement by Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey, El Paso County Sheriff Bell Elder, Fountain Police Chief Todd Evans and Colorado Springs NAACP President Henry Allen Jr. named a person of interest: “a Caucasian male, approximately 40 years of age and balding, driving a dirty, white pick-up truck.” Authorities have yet to arrest anyone involved with the case, although the FBI is investigating the explosion as an intentional act.
Some in the Twitterverse and social media outlets wondered whether the incident may be racially motivated, even while media outlets had no further update on those details. #NAACPBombing was one of the top trends throughout Wednesday, with many questioning the lack of wider coverage of the story:
wait…there was an #NAACPBombing for real? man…thank god for social media cause i woulda never known otherwise. oh well *shrug*….right?
— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) January 7, 2015
It's a shame none of the major news outlets are running the story on the #NAACPBombing. I heard about it on here smh.
— #RavensNation (@ArchieWonder) January 7, 2015
— Sean Jordan (@seanjjordan) January 7, 2015
“I don’t really understand it myself,” said Antonio French, an alderman for the city of St. Louis. “I learned about it via social media. But in trying to find coverage of this, I was kind of shocked that there wasn’t that much on mainstream television.”
“From what I’ve read, it sounds to me like an act of terrorism,” French continued. “Somebody was deliberately targeting an organization that tries to advance minority rights and trying to hurt people or destroy property. I would think that that would justify a larger response from the media than it’s received, and I’m confused and perplexed as to why we haven’t seen that.”
The FBI has not officially classified the explosion as an act of terror or a hate crime. It is an ongoing investigation. “It is certainly a possibility of being a hate crime or domestic terrorism, however we are exploring all possibilities of potential motive,” said Amy Sanders, spokeswoman for the FBI in Denver.
“I think it’s alarming, it is really disturbing that in 2015 we’re still talking about bombings at NAACP headquarters,” French said. “That, in light of some of the violence we’ve seen in the streets in the last few months, really shows that we just have a lot of work to do regarding race relations and civil rights in this country.”
When 18 year old Michael Brown was killed by then-Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, French provided updates of what was happening there on the ground through his Twitter account. In the early hours of those protests, many turned to French’s social media and other online outlets for updates.
Zellie Imani, a community organizer from New Jersey and blogger for black-culture.com, sees this as a pattern. He also found out about the Colorado explosion on Twitter. “I think this is a general thing where largely popular media or mainstream media kind of ignores black pain or violence against black people in general, especially when it’s committed by someone that’s not black,” Imani said. “While covering terrorist attacks in other countries, the media remains dangerously quiet on terrorist attacks at home.”
In America its not terrorism if black people are the targets and white people are the suspects. Therefore its not newsworthy. #NAACPBombimg
— zellie (@zellieimani) January 8, 2015
For Imani, what happened on Tuesday in Colorado is strongly reminiscent of attacks against black organizations that occurred during the civil rights movement. “The NAACP has always been a target since basically its inception,” he said. “This tradition of having homes and churches and branches [attacked] has been continued on to now. This really can’t just be overlooked or as a coincidence, because this is not a coincidence.”
When contacted for comment on the Twitter reaction today, the NAACP referenced a statement released on Tuesday. After a short recounting of the morning’s events, the statement concludes, “The NAACP looks forward to a full and thorough investigation into this matter by federal agents and local law enforcement.”