Lana Del Rey’s Posts Are a Lesson in How *Not* to Share Protest Photos—Here Are Some Tips

Lana Del Rey
Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic.

Whether you’re in the streets marching or amplifying the Black Lives Matter movement online, your role as a protester is full of important responsibilities. On a basic level, we’re talking about keeping people safe—something that Lana Del Rey’s deleted looter video failed to ensure. Fellow artists like Kehlani and Tinashe were quick to put Lana in her place, and anyone thinking of sharing protest videos or photos will want to listen to what they had to say for tips on how to be a responsible protester.

Let’s keep in mind that keeping people safe during protests is a layered goal. We all want to remain uninjured and healthy (especially with an ongoing pandemic). But we must also prioritize the protection of Black protesters, first and foremost. George Floyd, the 46-year-old father murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, was killed while already in police custody. The same could easily happen again to any protesters arrested during demonstrations.

And what some don’t realize is that these arrests don’t even have to be explained at the place of protest—prosecutors can justify mass arrests in no small part thanks to public evidence in the form of photos and videos via social media.

We must prioritize the protection of Black protestors, first and foremost.

Which is where Lana’s messy posts on Instagram come in. The singer recently shared videos of a group of protesters taking merchandise off of store shelves and another of a man standing on top of a burning vehicle, holding a sign that read: “NO JUSTICE NO PEACE.” While Lana was evidently in support of the protesters, artists like Kehlani were quick to point out how her “allyship” might have been doing more harm than good.

“@LanaDelRey please remove your Instagram post it’s dangerous as f*ck and a very poor choice of moments to post,” Kehlani wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “By all means protest, but DO NOT endanger people with your very massive platform. Oh and turn your f*ckin comments on man.” She later added that Lana’s post was “endangering the lives of Black people” by not protecting their identities on film.

Tinashe added to the debate, asking on Twitter, “@LanaDelRey why the f*ck are you posting people looting stores on your page literally WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM.”

Prosecutors can justify mass arrests thanks to free evidence in the form of photos and videos.

For some context on why this is such a huge problem, it’s important to mention the case of the J20 defendants. This group of over 200 people was arrested while protesting Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration in 2017. At the time, federal prosecutors used videos and photos sourced from journalists and protesters to support the arrests—an unprecedented event that brought up lots of concerns over state and local police surveillance. Three years later, there’s no saying that the same thing won’t happen again.

In the case of Lana Del Rey’s posts, the singer took down one video—but has yet to remove or adequately ensure the protection of identities in others still on her page. A rule for the wise: If you’re in doubt that your photo or video might expose the identities of people in it, don’t post. And if you absolutely need to—as in the cases of reporting police brutality or excessive use of force—do your best to distort the faces of protestors as much as possible. Instagram user’s @aguaepanti‘s post above is a great place to start.