US Protests: Why Black Activists Need Real Allies, Not ‘Hijackers’

Real activists of black community are angry at the violence because they can see their efforts being delegitimised.

Published03 Jun 2020, 03:55 PM IST
Opinion
4 min read

It’s too much. Just too much for black activists to be eclipsed by random trouble-makers, white agent provocateurs, and plain old infiltrators as protests enter their eighth day in the United States. They don’t want their sacred cause to be hijacked, no matter what the justification trotted out by angry young folk.

Thanks, but no thanks, they are saying loudly and clearly to the lumpen elements out there causing mayhem. The Governor of the state of Minnesota, Tim Walz, a Democrat, described them as “bad actors”. It all started in Minneapolis, a major city in Minnesota, with George Floyd, an African American, dying in plain view at the hands of the police, sparking nationwide protests.

Some Trouble-Makers With Their Own Agenda Are Fishing In Troubled Waters

President Donald Trump has blamed the unrest on ‘Antifa’ – contraction of the term ‘anti-fascist’, for a loosely coordinated movement of extreme left activists and anarchists who came into prominence in 2017. He wants to declare them ‘domestic terrorists’ but it’s unclear if any laws would apply. The federal government can only sanction foreign terrorist organisations.

Mainstream US press has shied away from pinning the blame for the current rioting on Antifa, and the police are yet to produce any concrete proof as to the identity or affiliation of the perpetrators.

But there’s little doubt that some trouble-makers with their own agenda are fishing in troubled waters.

Democrats and liberals have blamed white supremacists and young disaffected whites for the violence. A Michigan state politician, Laurie Pohutsky, tweeted on 30 May that “White people who took part in vandalism in Detroit last night after the peaceful protest was over” are part of the problem. “The black community faces the consequences, not you. Stop it.”

Some have blamed even the police, given the history of police infiltrating progressive movements. The police themselves don’t have any real answers about who is orchestrating the violence except to make a public show of force.

The streets are aflame, several malls have been looted and store fronts smashed alongside a good dose of arson. Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, has seen a fair share of burning and looting and police overreaction. The police themselves have sometimes indulged in acts of wanton destruction and smashed car windows for no good reason in a couple of US cities.

Snapshot
  • The streets are aflame, several malls have been looted and store fronts smashed alongside a good dose of arson.
  • Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, has seen a fair share of burning and looting and police overreaction.
  • But the conversation has changed from police brutality and the treatment of blacks by white police officers to arson and looting by people who appear to be indulging in wanton violence in the guise of protesting Floyd’s death.
  • It would be a real travesty if a general awakening among middle class whites about racism were to be obscured because the hijackers succeeded in painting the whole movement as violent.

How the Conversation Changed From Racism to Arson

The dominant image is of America burning, being on edge, teetering on the brink of a precipice, at a crossroads – take your pick – despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans have marched peacefully in hundreds of cities across the country to express their anger at the merciless killing of Floyd by the police in Minneapolis.

Floyd was black. The policeman with his knee on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, was white as three other policemen aided and abetted in the crime. The video has sparked nationwide anguish and forced a reckoning. Everyone with a conscience wants to come out and register their protest against this obvious case of police brutality. Blacks, whites, Latinos and South Asians are out with water bottles and bag packs, filling the public squares and parks across the country.

But the conversation has changed from police brutality and the treatment of blacks by white police officers to arson and looting by people who appear to be indulging in wanton violence in the guise of protesting Floyd’s death.

Why the Real Activists & Leaders Are Angry At the Violence

Late last week, the protests seemed over taken by violent elements that clearly wanted to cause trouble of the kind the African American leadership wasn’t looking for. It was creating chaos for chaos’ sake.

Rapper and activist ‘Killer Mike’ appealed to the rioters last week after the violence spread to his home city of Atlanta. “It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with the enemy. It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organisation,” he said. “Now is the time to plot, plan, strategise, organise and mobilise…”

Mary Hooks, an office bearer in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement known as BLM, believes that real work is to “keep beating the drums, keep planting the seeds” and above all, “be present” until African Americans gain the power to determine their own fate.

The real activists and the real leaders of the community are angry at the violence and vandalism because they can see the entire effort being delegitimised thanks to the poachers and hijackers in their midst.

White Folks’ Awakening About Racism Getting Overshadowed By Vandalism?

New York’s senior-most officer for counterterrorism, John Miller, analysed the activities of certain anarchist groups and found that before the protests began last week, organisers were recruiting people who could provide bail money in case of arrests and sympathetic medics in “anticipation of violent interactions with police.”

Miller told reporters that these groups focused on wealthier areas and high-end stores and deployed a complex network of bicycle scouts to lure some protesters away from the main demonstration where the police were to commit acts of vandalism. They hit and ran and the police rarely caught up with them.

It would be a real travesty if nationwide protests and a general awakening among middle class whites about racism in American society were to be obscured because the hijackers succeeded in painting the whole movement as violent, thereby giving the right-wing victory on a platter.

(The writer is a senior Washington-based journalist. She can be reached at @seemasirohi. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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