If there is one thing that America is known for, it’s protesting. After all, one of the inciting incidents of the American Revolution was the Boston Tea Party, a protest against high taxation without representation. However, not all protests are portrayed in a positive light, especially with the recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests.
A lot of people, like Tucker Carlson, like to paint the BLM protests as violent mobs that want to create a lawless wasteland in America. Well, CNN just published an article saying 93% of protests were peaceful, and so did countless other news firms.
Not only that, but the CNN article mentions the protests in Portland became more violent once Trump sent the police to stop the demonstrations. It makes sense. When you remove the instigators of violence in these protests, people won’t get hurt. Our own Noah Jabusch even wrote a column about this issue.
However, this piece isn’t about the BLM protests but how people view peaceful protests performed by various disenfranchised groups in general. With riots and looting, I get it. It’s not a good aesthetic, and it can take away from the message. But when people find ways to peacefully protest, people seem to get just as upset.
For example, when Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the national anthem to protest discrimination against people of color, a lot of people were saying this act was atrocious, and he was disrespecting the military. Even then-candidate Donald Trump said he should leave the country.
The funny thing about the whole ordeal is that it was Nate Boyer, a retired military veteran, who recommended that Kaepernick should kneel. What is even more ironic is that Kaepernick wasn’t the first one to kneel as a form of protest: It was Martin Luther King Jr. Many conservatives like to claim his likeness but condemn those who follow his lead.
In addition, peaceful protests have often been met with violent resistance. For example, here is a disturbing video where the police knocked an old man down, causing blood to leak from his ears. However, this isn’t new. The infamous March on Selma was met with violence by state troopers, which would later be known as Bloody Sunday. But most importantly, Martin Luther King Jr., the man known for peaceful protesting, was assassinated because of it.
Now, what is interesting to me is that, while some peaceful protests are met with scorn and violence, aggressive and violent ones done by white people are seen in a more positive and patriotic light.
For example, the protest against lockdown measures in North Carolina, where individuals thought it was necessary to bring guns and a rocket launcher to show their distaste for the government’s measures to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Or when people literally invaded the Michigan Statehouse not wearing masks, not social distancing and having guns.
While no violence came from these “protests,” they were not peaceful. One does not just randomly bring guns and weapons in a public sphere for the aesthetic. They do it to terrorize people, to hold fear against others and to provoke others into a violent response. This is anything but peaceful. But there is not a lot of condemnation on the right.
What I find appalling is that in some instances, there were no police intervention and even applauded by some people. Take for example Kyle Rittenhouse, where after killing two people, he was not immediately apprehended by police and received praise from people like Republican Rep. Thomas Maisse. Last time I checked, the Michigan governor did not receive any federal protection when she was being terrorized and threatened by people who were complaining that they couldn’t go outside, but Trump would send unmarked policemen to Portland to crack down on people upset with police brutality.
But this isn’t anything new. Famous historical and violent protests, such as the Stamp Act riots, the Dorr Rebellion and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry are seen in a positive light, as a group of people protesting against tyranny. However, when people protest against state violence by the police peacefully, they are berated and attacked.
Overall, what I’m trying to say is that this is why some people resort to violence when protesting. When people protest peacefully, they get criticized unfairly and sometimes assaulted. In their eyes, there is no “right” way to protest, so they will lash out violently against systemic injustice.
I am not saying we should destroy private property and fight each other on the street. But, if we keep demonizing peaceful protesting and assaulting these protesters on the streets, the violence and riots will continue. The only way to prevent that from happening is to have an open dialogue about these issues and potential solutions to solve them.