As of early Saturday morning, protests have broken out in cities across the US in response to police brutality, calling for racial justice in America. I haven’t seen an accurate count yet, but I expect that the crowd counting consortium will have data for anyone who is looking for numbers.
Three days ago, I wrote a post that asked if the American Resistance would join these protests that were motivated by the killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis. Three days later, the answer is a resounding YES. Resistance Groups have posted statements in solidarity with the protesters, including Indivisible, and numerous groups are encouraging their members to be allies and join the National Call to Action that is being coordinated by the Movement for Black Lives. Moreover, the youth climate groups that I have been studying for the past year, which are populated by young people who are children of the Resistance, are also join the protests with their own calls to action. Here’s the one by Sunrise that was posted last night. The calls by these youth led groups are particularly noteworthy since the activists in these groups have lots of experience with civil disobedience / direct action tactics. Here’s a table based on multiple waves of data collection of the past year (yes, you read that right, 69% of organizers for last month’s Earth Day Live report participating in direct action in the past year!):
With all of these Left-leaning groups supporting calls to protest in solidarity, what can we expect from these protests that are spreading and, in many cases, turning violent with the police responding with teargas and pepper spray? I wrote a piece for TIME about when we should expect to see protests get more confrontational back in December. At that time, I was unable to envision a pandemic that closed schools, shut down a huge portion of the economy, and lead us all to be staying at home for months.
In the piece, I write: “History shows us that when activism gets more disruptive and confrontational, institutional power responds. And that’s when the distance between peaceful protest and violent protest narrows.” We are seeing clear examples of the violence that ensues. With more people taking to the streets in more places, it’s important to remember that riots are the product of the actions and reactions by institutional political actors (eg the police and the national guard). Although it’s too soon to say what will be the result of the protests, there’s very little question that this is only the beginning.