Sustained protests have occurred all over the country and around the world since the public killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, May 25, 2020. The demonstrations represent anger from years of deaths of hundreds of people, disproportionately people of color, by police. Far too often of unarmed people. Protests against centuries of systemic racism, which began with the arrival of White European colonists.
The protests had been almost universally peaceful. That has been crucial to the increasing support for Black Lives Matter in this country.
Following are comments from Nahko Bear, talking to the Indigenous youth at Standing Rock. He warns the them not to respond when the police try to instigate violence. Because that would be used to justify the police moving in against the water protectors. I read that everyone who came to Standing Rock was required to attend training for nonviolent resistance.
Remember that nonviolent direct action is the way to a successful revolution. And that is a hard one, because they are so bad. When they come at us you just want to hit ’em, you know? Just sit with that. I know it’s tough. They’re going to try to do everything they can to instigate you.
But remember what we’re here for. We’re here to create peace for our Mother. We’re not here to create more violence.
Are you guys feeling proud, are you proud of yourselves? Because the whole world is watching. The whole world is watching. So whatcha gonna do? Gonna show love? Are you gonna be smart? You gonna think before you act? Take care of each other? Your gonna show ‘em what family does. They don’t know what that’s like.Nahko Bear at the Water Protectors Youth Concert, Standing Rock, Sept. 8, 2016
Nonviolent discipline began to break down in some places in the last few weeks. Specifically in Portland, Oregon, where the president ordered Federal law enforcement officers to the streets of the city. Officers in riot gear with assault rifles and shields. Who used tear gar. Officers without identification. Who detained people without explanation. Protesters have been thrown into unmarked vehicles. First amendment civil liberties flagrantly violated.
Why Portland? Why now? The president publicly stated he was sending these troops to “Democrat” cities. “Why now?” Because the approval of the president, and Republicans in general, is falling lower and lower due to their abject failure to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in this country. They are looking for ways to distract people’s attention from those failures.
In the past, finding excuses to go to war with other countries has been used to gain political support for a president. I’ve been afraid that’s what this administration would try to do. Now we see they are trying to use armed conflict as a distraction, but the target of this conflict is us, the American people, peaceful protesters.
Unfortunately this distraction seems to be having a little success. Now the news is full of videos of conflicts with militarized police. Images that make it look like the protesters are violent. Now the president and Republicans are using those images, calling protesters anarchists. Fearmongering. Law and order. More accurately, martial law and order.
There are a number of questions about who is trying to instigate the violence.
My friend Ed Fallon did a good job of discussing these things on his weekly radio program, the Fallon Forum. I was honored that he read some of what I’ve written on this blog about nonviolence. The part about my writing begins at 13:42
What can those of us who support peaceful protest do? These days the answer is more circumscribed than in the past. Public events like demonstrations carry the risk of acquiring COVID-19. Those in high risk categories should avoid public gatherings. For those who feel safe doing so, public rallies are one possible response. Some of the photos below are of a rally in Indianola, Iowa, where people are using face masks and trying to maintain some social distancing.
It might be helpful to review nonviolence and de-escalation theory and techniques, some of which is discussed in the the following article. There might be opportunities for you to teach those you are with about these techniques.
I think the best thing to do right now is to disengage from the police forces. Take away the excuse for state violence. Instead, use the time and energy to work on other avenues to reduce police abuse. To begin building beloved communities.