On Protesting

A friend was writing on Facebook about Trump’s inflammatory response to recent protests-turned-riots in response to the death of George Floyd.

In the discussion, someone asked “What -should- Trump have said?” Here is my response and furthering of the discussion

My friend also wrote: (1) The outside rioters and instigators don’t care about the BLM cause, but rather have their own warped agenda. The best way to deal with them it to avoid giving them the publicity. As much as their rioting may make for good “TV news” the less air time their actions get the better. (2) Bringing in the military only fans the flames and gives the rioters even more of the attention they crave. I can’t see it’s doing anything but giving the rioters a bigger platform.

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Whenever a riot happens, I find myself trying to intellectualize why it is happening. “What do they want? How are they using this riot to achieve their goals?”

I participated in some protests years ago and I saw how there were people in it, heart and soul, for a variety of reasons. I wanted to participate in an organized, peaceful civil disobedience to achieve a goal. Some of the people I met were “into protesting” (I found that very weird!). And some just wanted to f- things up because the world is f-ed up. Ergo, a good portion of the protesters didn’t have easily enumerated goals!

So, you say that some don’t care about the BLM cause… I’d say that you’re right… and not right. Two of the groups I mentioned don’t need to find a connection with BLM except to feel the sympatico and join with it.

And then I think about our president and… (stay with me here) he’s pretty much an asshole, right? Did you see him getting his photo-op in front of St. John’s Church today? I hate him on principle in the same way that the church ministers that were tear-gassed described (https://www.npr.org/2020/06/01/867532070/trumps-unannounced-church-visit-angers-church-officials). So, when a demagogue like Trump taunts people, most of the types of protesters that I ran into in my civil disobedience days would naturally be drawn into a fight against him.

So, if I were president and I wanted to stop protesters-come-rioters, I would play it cool. I’d say little, say gentle, humanity-affirming things, welcome people to believe they need to protest, welcome people to believe everything isn’t f-ed up… and wait for people to cool off.

I also want to address your statement about publicity and “the attention they crave”. In my (limited!) experience, I’m not sure that most protesters are crave attention per se. But you know, I’m trying to put this into words and having a hard time. Maybe your shorthand “publicity” -is- good phrasing. I believe the main motivation is an internal desire to right a wrong… to “do something”. Of course, Americans generally have a strong believe that putting an issue into the open helps resolve it: publicizing a problem -is- doing something. If people see me getting beat up by riot police because of my beliefs, then people will sympathize with me and my cause all the more…

There I am, intellectualizing the rioting again.

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