Here’s the simple truth: academic research shows that riots are actually an effective way to protest. They get results pretty often. The riot was justified and the looting is part of what happens in riots. As long as America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, an oppressed minority kept down with violence and in poverty, and locks up black men at a ferocious rate, riots will happen because people hate being treated like shit.
Ian Welsh on methods.
“Peaceful protest” is a neoliberal lie. All protests are violent, in that the entire point of a protest is a threat.1 By their nature they’re a show of solidarity and of strength. They say, “This is how many people are angry about The Thing. This is us gathering. That’s Step One. Do you really want to see Step Two?”
The riot is the Step Two. Even the fathers of so-called “peaceful” protests—Gandhi, King, Mandela—all knew this, and every single one of the movements they are considered the figureheads of used, at one point or another, violent tactics. You cannot actually defeat violence, especially state violence, with non-violence. There’s even a word for trying, and it’s not associated with good things.
No one wants a riot. Even armchair internet tankies who think they do, don’t. Riots suck. People get hurt and killed, property gets destroyed, and not just the “acceptable” property of international capital and the state.2 The riot is the penultimate step, right before the wholesale uprising. No one wants to be in a position where they feel that is the only route left to them to express their fear, frustration, and dissatisfaction. And yet it happens. It is happening.
All protests are violent. The only difference is what justification you accept as a legitimate rationale… and how far you think that legitimacy goes.
- Ironically, the far-right understands this a lot more intuitively than the modern de-fanged left does. Those assholes showing up with assault rifles to protest their “right” to get a haircut? They know. [↩]
- Keeping in mind that the property of the state? Yeah, that’s technically your property. It’s held in trust on your behalf because that’s what the modern state is, but it’s technically yours, and your money, i.e. tax dollars, will be used to restore it. Which gets you into the strange intellectual dilemma that if a large portion and/or outright majority of a population want to destroy part of the state… is that then defensible? Legally? Morally? Politically? I mean you’re allowed to destroy your own private property… so what about your state property? If 5% of the population riot and destroy 1% of state property, is that okay? If I pay $x a year in taxes, does that mean I can then cause <$x a year in damage and still feel like I’m under my “allocation”? Or is there some other factor at work? Essays due Friday. [↩]