First, let me point out that I was out of town that week, and so couldn't be at the event. So I am not claiming to know what happened. In fact, I feel very similar to how I felt before the Iraq War: I didn't know that Saddam Hussein did not possess WMDs; I just knew that no one had provided me with any good evidence that he did. Likewise, right now I have yet to be provided with any good evidence that Gladney was the victim rather than the instigator (or co-instigator) of last Thursday's events. If someone has further evidence that is relevant, I'd be very interested to see it.
So what is the evidence? The primary teabagger evidence is this video:
The video is grainy and starts late, and clearly does not capture the whole story, so we have no way of knowing whether the Republican who filmed it really included the full sequence of events that were captured on tape. However, at first glance, we see some sort of a scuffle with a lot of screaming, and then see a large man with an SEIU shirt pull someone (Gladney) to the ground. Later in the video, Gladney claims that he was attacked simply for trying to sell his merchandise. So, at least at a loose glance, the video seems to support the right-wing story.
However, I've noticed quite a few subtleties in the video that actually seem to better support the story that SEIU is stating: namely, that Gladney was an instigator of the fight or was at the very least equally culpable. To start with, many of the statements from SEIU people in the video immediately lend support to the SEIU story rather than Gladney's (note: Elston McCowan is a minister in an SEIU shirt who was on the ground at the beginning of the video) :
(0:23) Angry women: He started it.
McCowan: Nah, he pushed me first.
(0:37) Gladney (to McCowan): Man, what the hell is wrong with you?
McCowan: You pushed me.
Gladney: Why'd you hit my hands?
#3OK, so maybe it's not surprising that the statements of SEIU folks during the video support their story. But on the other hand, consider the fact that many of Gladney's later statements seem to be inconsistent with what transpired on the video.
(0:44) Angry teabagger: You attacked that guy for nothing.
Man in SEIU shirt: No, we didn't attack him for nothing. He hit Elston. Elston's a damn minister idiot! How'd [he fight?] a minister?...
Angry teabagger: Two of you guys attacked that guy!
Man in SEIU shirt: No we didn't. He attacked a minister.
Here is how Gladney described what happened as a guest on Neil Cavuto's Fox News show:
GLADNEY Well, let’s see. Let’s start from the beginning- about- about 8:30- 8:45, we were- I was setting up actually to pass out the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags. A priest’s wife- she walked up to me and I was kind of showing her some of the merchandise that we had- that I had there at the time. And this guy- he walked up to me and said, who in the- you know, who in the blank is selling this blank here. And I said, sir, this is my merchandise, and- you know, would you like a flag or something like that? And he was like, what kind of ‘N’ are you to be giving out this kind of stuff here? And he snatched the- the button board. And when he snatched the button board, I snatched it back from him, and that’s when he proceeded to hit me in my face. After that, another member of his organization ran up, and he starts hitting me in my face as well. I fell to the floor. And another guy from the organization- a tall guy- a Caucasian- he began to grab me by my collar- by my neck, and he hit me in my face on the left side and knocked me back to the floor. And that’s when a woman started kicking me in the back of my head and in my back-Several things strike me as very strange about these claims. For reference, here is a picture of Gladney's outfit so you can identify him in future pictures (click on this or any of the pictures for a larger version):
First, you can see at the beginning of the video that both McCowan and Gladney are on the ground (McCowen is circled in blue, Gladney in red):
You can see that Gladney gets up right away:
This immediately calls into question some of his testimony. First of all, (#4) it is clear from the video that Gladney gets up unobstructed, in contrast to his claim that he was being beaten while on the ground. Second, (#5) if he was on the ground being beaten, then how did Elston McCowan get on the ground? If Gladney was surrounded and being beaten by a mob, it's hard to imagine that McCowan would have coincidentally fallen to the ground and dislocated his shoulder. Someone put McCowan on the ground.
Next (#6), Gladney claims that he was being beaten by at least four people. Why, then, when asked by the videographer who was attacking him, did he answer (at 1:19), "That guy attacked me...the black guy there." If you were attacked by a mob of people, wouldn't you say that they had all attacked you? Furthermore, the only video evidence provided was of the large guy in the SEIU shirt pulling Gladney backwards, but this appears not to be the relevant event for Gladney. When interviewed on the spot, he thinks the important thing to focus on is that Elston McCowen attacked him, but there is absolutely no video evidence for that claim. All of the other stuff only appeared after he spoke with his lawyer and presumably other right-wing activists.
Also note (#7) that Gladney claimed in the Cavuto interview that he was hit in the face repeatedly, included by Elston. But in the quoted passage above (#2, 0:43), after McCowan says that Gladney had pushed him, Gladney asks McCowan, "Why did you hit my hands?" If someone were punching you in the face, I find it very implausible that you would choose to ask why they hit your hands. You probably would focus on the getting-hit-in-the-face part of the encounter.
Finally, (#8), listen at 1:10 where a voice that sure sounds exactly like Gladney's says, "I'm gonna beat the shit outta him." That does not sound like the innocent victim that Gladney portrays himself as being.
I think some of the most damning evidence against Gladney's story comes from some of the pictures. In this still frame of the video (around 0:05), you can see one of the SEIU people that Gladney claims attacked him standing directly over McCowan:
His body language quite clearly indicates a defensive posture, looking to protect McCowan from attack. But more importantly, check out some screen shots of Gladney:
It's a bit hard to see, but Gladley is clearly in an aggressive posture. He is facing McCowan on the ground, his knees bent as if ready to strike. As the videographer gets closer, it's a bit easier to see:
Finally, check out this picture:
In it, Gladley's fist is clearly clenched, and someone his holding his arm back. He looks like a man ready and willing to fight. Unlike the teabaggers, I will not claim that I have omniscient knowledge of who started this fight, but it certainly seems evident that Gladley was a willing participant who shares some of the responsibility.
Last, but not least, consider the fact that Gladney appeared at this Saturday's teabagger protest of SEIU in a wheelchair, claiming that he is not strong enough to talk:
He was sure able to walk, speak, and threaten to "beat the shit out of" people immediately after the incident. Now I've been hurt before in situations where I didn't feel it at the time but later was pretty sore. But not being able to speak? Like the rest of the story, it doesn't fit with what we can see on the video.