Today I'm focused on something else.
Something I can’t get off my mind this week: the way people use the words "protestor" and "rioter" interchangeably.
I see friends sharing their frustration this way:
“I understand the protests and support them, but... [fill in the blank... rioting, looting, destroying property] is bullshit. They’re killing their own message!”
No, they’re not.
First, the vast majority of protesters are not rioting, and they are not violent. They are protesting for life. This is life and death.
Second, there have now been multiple examples of police and non-protestors initiating chaos in these marches – in my own experience, and in the evidence of others. Like a video I just saw: a car of white people handed out bricks to a group of black men... then were followed and called out by a lone, brave black woman. I have also seen police who are treating these protests with respect.
The opportunists of every race who are exploiting the movement by looting and inciting violence are, sadly, a part of every movement for change, and this one is no different. It's always tragic and of course none of us wants to see rioting.
But for the very small minority of protestors who ARE actively rioting after reaching their boiling point, can you even comprehend what kind of oppression leads to finally having enough and seeing rioting as your only option to be heard?
We’re seeing just a tiny glimpse of these realities on screen - the systemic horrors, the majority of peaceful protesters, the chaos, the pain of lifetimes of injustice. If you didn’t see the 8-minute torture of George Floyd, the literal hunting and killing of Ahmad Arbery, the dog walker in Central Park, or any other videos of the black experience from this year alone, please. don’t. look. away.
So, yes, for some this may be an excuse to start fights or explore their inner anarchist, but don’t let them shift your focus. Remember that before this, quiet protests were still criticized by those who insisted on looking away, who turn the focus back to their own limited life experience, who complain about people not respecting the flag, not respecting the police, not being polite when they stand up for themselves.
For those who’ve been living these atrocities, this is an inevitable moment of action. The evidence of severe, murderous racism exists in every corner of the internet right now and across all cable news networks. Bitterness, silence, or concern about “what the world is coming to” suggests that we have no idea just how bad things have been, forever. For so, so many.
It’s never been easier to speak out on their behalf.
This is their time.
- Trish Lopez
If you are unfamiliar with the names referenced above, see videos below:
George Floyd in Police Custody
NYC Dog Walker and African American Bird Watcher
Ahmaud Arbery Death
Remembering Breonna Taylor
Locally, standing in silent peaceful protest in support of black lives:
See ABQ Journal article
See KOAT news video