I’ve walked streets in cities across the world after riots and massive protests. Feeling the anger and despair is definitely more effective when you experience firsthand the destruction. In Europe and South Americs citizens didn’t clean up after their marches. Many considered it disrespectful to erase the aftermath quickly, as the masses wanted the government to be responsible for the damage and attone for their sins. That’s the point of the demonstration after all, to clearly communicate that the people are not going to take “it”, whatever it is, anymore.
The many pictures of peaceful and ultraviolent demonstrations following Minnesota’s George Floyd death by police knee to the throat presented a conundrum; regardless of the nature and creativity of the protestors, retaliation – aggressively and passively – followed. A man in Utah shot arrows at the crowds in Salt Lake City. Police ran over civilians manifesring in New York City. Minneapolis and Seattle police cruisers burned. Cops in Miami knelt as a gesture of respect to protesters. Colorado citizens laid face down for 9 minutes exclaiming “I can’t breathe!”. However, all I see in my Facebook newsfeed is praise for the people putting the pieces back together after the chaos. As if the community coming together after the fact was just as important as the events themselves.
In the United States, the “people showed up to clean” rhetoric sparks joy and hope which totally ends up undermining the purpose of the destruction of private and public property. It wasn’t always like this. People didn’t clean after Stonewall or after the Rodney King riots. Watching the city burn in retaliation for the blatant abuse of power was paramount. The people had to persist to make the message come across: We will not tolerate this brutality, the disrespect, nor having to change our lives to ensure we do not die at the hands of the oppressors.
We are loud. We are proud. We are here to stay. Get used to it!
With cleaners and equipment being able to set back the clock swiftly after a demonstration turned destructive, civil disobedience is losing their efficacy. Groups target areas knowing others will clean, that there will be no accountability for the vandals’ actions, a carte blanche! Saboteurs and provocateurs are driven from adjacent cities or hired to derrail peaceful protests; to turn a situation that is already explosive nuclear. It’s the opposite effect of the act itself. No one knows anymore what the message was. All they remember is a city came together to make the damage disappear. To return back to normal and ignore what occurred.
The Why? falls by the wayside of the Who? and the What?
The media plays us all for fools. Don’t be beguiled by the silver linings; for the “we came together to fix it” marketing ploy intends to divide people into good or bad; into solidarity or not with the cause. It serves to belittle the issue and make it about property, which can be replaced, unlike the lives of those lost to the tyranny of power, and the suffering endured by those who wonder, “Will I be next?”. Yes, there are better ways to protest, and in the world of fake news and orchestrated outcomes, it’s hard to know beforehand what will be considered peaceful.
Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the USA National Anthem in NFL games, an act of disobedience that cost him his career. Mike Pence, the VP of #45, got up and left, raining down hate on the San Francisco quarterback. The racism and indifference is systemic. How do you fight it without using force, when those displays are indubitably ignored? Why would you believe being quiet or peaceful will get your point across?
Honestly, we’ve been fighting for equal rights for all since the civil war. Since the 60s. Since forever. What do we have to do to end this? Education? Training? Unconscious bias eradication? Seems a lot of the processes and protocols established by police, as well as public and private industry, cannot get to the root cause of the problem. We spin in circles, attempting anything from social media campaigns to acts of violence to get our point across. Fire is met with fire. Enlightened woke words and pleas to “not kill me” are falling on deaf ears.
What do we have to gain from assuming a segment of our population – a minority that steadily is becoming a majority – is inferior to the image of past colonizers. Science has proven that the human race is the product of genetics, and that not one group has an advantage over another. Tools are made to make the weak strong; technology is designed to give every person an edge. A woman can train to become as fast and as intelligent as any man regardless of her race and social standing. The land of the free and home of the brave needs to evolve to live up to the promises of the Constitution and the founding fathers.
The cycle must end now!