June 01, 2020

Inflection point

Several things are going on at the same time, precluding a pithy response to any of it. A short post only about violent protest, or about cops, or about looting, would have some implications that are quite the opposite of true. Here's the thing:

a) Black people—and others, but especially black people—have a lot, a *lot*, a *LOT* of grievances, with law enforcement in this country, and with the governing powers in this country, and with white people in this country. Legitimate grievances. They go back a long way: to 1968, to 1921, to 1896, to 1788, to 1619. Peaceful protest has never been exceptionally effective, and in recent years has been almost entirely ineffective, and so it seems we've made violent protest inevitable. Some famous guy had something to say about that.[0] It's been adding up for a long time, and possibly the day is coming soon where we pay the bill.[1] And yet, almost unbelievably, it seems that despite them having every reason to turn to violence, the looting and violence in the last few days has not (for the most part) come from the black community.

b) What we're seeing, in well-documented video form, over and over and over and over, in cities across the country, is that cops, faced with unarmed protestors holding them to account for their abusive violence, double down and resort to abusive violence. Cops have shoved a man walking with a cane, maced people walking along, pulled down a covid mask to mace someone, revved their cars and plowed into crowds of protestors, maced a child, and confiscated and destroyed supplies of milk and drinking water. They've shot rubber and/or pepper bullets at ministering clergy, credentialed reporters, and medics, as well as scores of nonviolent protestors and people who just happened to be walking by, in some cases causing blindness and other permanent damage. They've arrested reporters and photojournalists and absolutely flat-out lied about the circumstances, even though they had been broadcast on live TV. Following the law and complying with police commands grants absolutely no guarantee against being gassed[2], shot, or arrested (or all three)—something that POC have known for a long time but is coming as a surprise to much of white America. That one sheriff in Flint who stood with the protestors is getting held up as an example an awful lot, and every time he's the one held up it further cements what an outlier he is. It's not the protestors turning the protests violent. Over and over, it's the cops.

And they sure as hell didn't do that a month ago when it was white guys protesting. Not even one.

c) And then there's the looting and property damage. In Minneapolis, much of this has been occurring *miles* away from where the protest events were; and recurring reports, in many cities, are that the instigators and most or all of the perpetrators of property damage—smashing windows, burning buildings—have been white. And a lot of them from out of state. It's hard to know exact percentages but it's clear that a *significant proportion* of the damage we're seeing is coming from agents provocateurs trying to escalate the protests, white supremacists going into cities to use the protests as cover to destroy POC-owned businesses, and flat-out accelerationists who are explicitly trying to start a second civil war as such.

And, given the issues in the previous paragraph, a lot of people are—reasonably—worried that the police will not be working particularly hard to stop the agents provocateurs, the white supremacists, or the accelerationists; in some cases because they *are* agents provocateurs, white supremacists, or accelerationists.

And of course,

d) Let's not forget through all of this that we are still in a very delicate place on the pandemic curve. The protestors and cops are, fortunately, mostly wearing masks (although a lot of the looters aren't, go figure). And fwiw a lot of the protests look considerably more spread out than most of the ones I've seen before, if perhaps not to a full 6ft distancing. But there will inevitably be some spreading events as a result of all this. It's a heavy price, on top of all the other heavy prices everybody is paying here.

How the actual fuck do we dig out of this?

[0] Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. --John F. Kennedy

[1] As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash. ... Don't fool yourselves—it's all adding up, and one of these days we are going to pay the bill for it. --Harper Lee, "To Kill a Mockingbird" (Atticus Finch)

[2] NB: Tear gas is a chemical weapon, and since 1993 is banned in the field of combat; using it against an enemy would be a war crime. But it's legal to use against your own citizens. Hmmm?

PS. I'm referring to "cops" a lot here. That's papering over some differences, of course; Chauvin was the one that actually killed George Floyd, for instance, while his three fellow cops "only" watched without interfering. But that's a pretty thin distinction. All of the bad cop stuff I'm talking about, every single bit of it, would be *gone* if even half of the "not all cops" that I keep hearing about would speak up. But they don't.

"Riots are not the causes of white resistance, they are consequences of it." --Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Posted by blahedo at 1:01am on 1 Jun 2020
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