Jake Paul, internet personality well-known for his YouTube antics, faces backlash for his recording of an Arizona mall looting. Paul predominantly garnered media attention from his 2017 single “It’s Everyday Bro”, which is now the seventh most disliked video on YouTube. The 23-year-old with a strong social media following is no stranger to controversy; he was once recorded rapping the n-word. He had also been hit with a lawsuit from his landlords which claimed property damage and harassment of neighbors.
In a series of Instagram stories, Paul documented his time attending a police brutality protest, one of many that are occurring throughout the nation after the murder of George Floyd. He shared a photo of his face, claiming he was tear-gassed and his eye was bleeding. Later, Paul and his crew videoed the looting of the Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale, Arizona. The recording of this scene was not only done by Paul; outside videos surfaced of the YouTuber as well, drawing attention and sparking backlash towards his presence at the mall.
No video indicates that Paul was participating in the vandalization or looting. However, at one point, Paul was passed a stolen bottle of vodka.
While he may not have partaken in the actions of the looters, he is still causing outrage. Critics are condemning his recording of the scene as fodder for his monetized content and brand, claiming his actions are “opportunistic” and provide little support to the Black Lives Matter Movement.
The millionaire YouTuber responded in length on his Twitter, writing:
“To be absolutely clear, neither I nor anyone in our group was engaged in any looting or vandalism. For context, we spent the day doing our part to peacefully protest one of the most horrific injustices our country has ever seen, which led to us being tear-gassed for filming the events and brutality that were unfolding in Arizona. We were gassed and forced to keep moving on foot. We filmed everything we saw in an effort to share our experience and bring more attention to the anger felt in every neighborhood we traveled through; we were strictly documenting, not engaging. I do not condone violence, looting, or breaking the law; however, I understand the anger and frustration that led to the destruction we witness and while it’s not the answer, it’s important that people see it and collectively figure out how to move forward in a healthy way. We are all doing the best we can to be helpful and raise awareness; this is not the time to attack each other, it’s time to join together and evolve.”
— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) May 31, 2020
Paul writes that his recordings were meant to spread awareness about the protest experience and while he does not condone violence, he understands the sentiments behind the looting and vandalism.
In the wake of countless occurrences of police brutality, it is more necessary than ever that celebrities use their platform as a megaphone for good. And whether or not Jake Paul was completely sincere in his actions, his video content left a bad taste in the mouths of many viewers.