Take street protests to the next level
Tuesday night in the fourth night of protests in Berkeley, California, a group of 1,000 protestors converged on a city council meeting. When the meeting was abruptly canceled, the protestors marched into Oakland and defied a CHP blockade, running out onto the freeway and shutting down Highway 24. Some protestors set fires in neighborhoods and looted. They also fought with peaceful protestors trying to get them to stop the destruction. One man started to sweep up the debris, telling protestors that he needed the dumpster for his apartment building and they attacked him.
This is bullshit.
Some of these “protestors” are protesting the fact that the previous protest ended before they could get their share of the looting done. There’s no movement that promotes their message by stealing. You can’t demand justice at the same time as you’re committing a crime. Those elements are a cancer on the movement and need to be cut out yesterday.
There’s no doubt that the majority of protestors are peaceful, but the destructive ones taint all of them. That’s why peaceful protestors have to be the most outspoken against the rioters. I applaud that many tried to stop the destructive ones. That’s what has to happen. Just like it should be good cops who are most outraged at bad cops because their actions taint the force.
Destruction doesn’t advance the cause, especially a cause focusing on getting justice for police overreach. Stealing from hardworking people doesn’t help the cause. Arson doesn’t help the cause. All the violence, looting and destruction do is turn people against the movement. It makes them want police to crack down. It chips away at the very issue the protestors stand for. Every time there’s looting or arson or violence, it sets the cause back.
Though some may not like it when it comes to shutting down roads, sometimes that’s a legitimate strategy of protest. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King employed nonviolent civil disobedience in furtherance of their cause. Of course, factoring in the safety to the public, protestors and law enforcement is important if what is desired is mass arrests to protest an issue. Running amok isn’t quite the same thing.
I like seeing young folks hit the street and protest because that’s exactly what our Constitution says they have a right to do. Making your voice heard, publicly assembling and asking for redress of grievances is what the First Amendment is all about.
But I hope to see more than that. I hope they take it to the next level. Though conservative knuckleheads have derided it, pick up books on community organizing and get organized. Register to vote and vote. Pack those city council meetings. Push for citizen review boards. Push for more lapel cameras. Set up citizen patrols. Go into law enforcement. Or use this to propel them into law school to be able to actually effect change. There has to be follow-up. Marching for marching’s sake is largely a waste of time.
The tragedy for this movement would be for it to be ceded to the criminals and anarchists, who try to hide in every demonstration in order to sow chaos and steal. Or it turns into a navel gazing street theater exercise like the Occupy movement. Demonstrations are the beginning, not the end. Moving to the next step (whether it’s voter registration or anything I listed in the preceding paragraph) will strip away the fraudulent protestors, thieves and criminals who were never in it for the cause.
The movement has to be more than street protests. More than T-shirts worn by athletes. If it’s not, then we’ll be right back here, going through the same motions next year when the next injustice drops.