Police cars on fire. Riot police beating the shit out of young people. Bricks crashing through windows. Young people covered in blood. Masked figures breaking into and running out of stores carrying handfuls of stolen shit.
My initial reaction to this chaotic looting and random destruction was that it’s misdirected frustration. Say Alex, Bobby, and Chris are in a room and Alex keeps punching Bobby in the face. How should Bobby retaliate? Would it make sense for Bobby to punch Chris, who hasn't done anything? Should Bobby punch everyone in the room? Not a perfect allegory but it attempts to illustrate how I see riots as inadvertently destroying family businesses, especially small businesses and even black owned businesses.
Almost all new business start out relatively small, and the American economy relies heavily on its businesses. As an new entrepreneur I understand the risks of starting and maintaining a business, especially a brick a mortar business in 2020. It takes a ton of heart and in many cases you need to put it all on the line to even get started. Even under normal circumstances, running a business is a very tough thing to do. But entrepreneurs take up the challenge because they have hope in something greater. They believe in theirselves and in their idea.
Imagine you have the heart and courage to take that risk and despite the odds, get your business running. Now imagine a brick crashing through your window. A group of people in hoodies and face masks jump into your store and grab as much as they can carry and leave. Your life’s work is destroyed.
In an ideal Boston Tea Party situation, protesters will organize and target specific business that have the financial means to handle the damage. Hit Walmart, hit Target, hit the Ferrari dealership. They’ll bounce back. The small stores will most likely be dead. They probably don’t have the funds to repair the damage and will therefore be gone forever. Since we live in an oligarchy, it makes the most sense to hit ‘em where it hurts. Take out an Amazon fulfillment center. Take out an Apple Store. These businesses are in a sense immortal. In a national sense though, the ongoing threat of damage to these powerful companies is a threat to the U.S. GDP.
Under the current circumstances we don’t have the organizational capacity to narrow the targets to large corporations. These demonstrations are a result of years of frustration resulting from the lack of accountability for police actions. Police officers who murder while on duty have been ordered to take a leave of absence or at most resign from their position, rather than be charged for murder. Obviously this lack of respect and the lack of justice for the victims has reached its tipping point, and the resulting explosion cannot be controlled or funneled.
The vast majority of protesters protest in peace. A group of citizens holding signs and chanting their grievances to give voice to injustice is one of the most American sights you will ever see. America, like any country, in its essence is a large group of people living in a similar area with a similar social structure. America is the people, not the government. The government and its departments are in place to create a better functioning society, not the other way around. When the law enforcement is not held accountable for murder, there is a tyrannical energy in the air and everyone can feel it. These protestors are patriots, and they are fighting for a better world for the people. However, their voices have been ignored till now as the violence against minorities has continued without repercussion.
I’ve mentioned the tragedy of lost businesses but also the importance of this movement. How do I reconcile these two conflicting ideas? A lot of cognitive dissonance, and also the following anecdote.
A couple years ago the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. My friend and I went to Wrigley field to celebrate. When I got there, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Crowds bellowing in the street, people dancing on top of cars, girls taking off their tops. We were walking through a sea of smiling faces. The energy was positive and electrifying.
As the night went on, however, things started to change. Mob mentality took a hold and the positive energy turned into something else. Cars and trucks were flipped to their sides. Bricks were thrown through windows. Stores were looted. Police on horseback marched the crowd down the street through Broadway. I was 21 at the time and I remember breaking into a smoke shop and grabbing a bong (which was later smashed in the street). It was chaos. The initial positive vibe from the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup had dissipated and what was left was simply destruction and belligerence.
The next day, there was nothing on the news about this looting. It was like it didn’t happen. The shop owners on Broadway just had to deal with their losses, which were an inadvertent casualty of the Blackhawks win.
There are protesters and there are rioters. They sometimes overlap but the majority of protesters go out there with good intentions and rioters go out to take advantage of a bad situation. It’s important to not let the chaotic behavior of the rioters diminish the necessary work of the protesters.
It has been revealed to the public that U.S. government agencies have been infiltrating peaceful protests for as long as there have been protests. During the hippie movement in the 60’s the CIA had undercover operatives join hippie communes and distribute LSD while inciting violence. During the Occupy Wall Street movement a couple years back, the FBI implanted undercover operatives amongst the peaceful protesters who caused violence and pushed police officers to make arrests. This tactic diminishes the main purpose of the protests and allows the media to showcase the protests in a negative light. The protesters are called thugs by association.
The best way to protest is peacefully. The best way to protest so that was can come out of this with minimum damage is with civil disobedience. However, from what I’ve personally seen and from what social psychology tells us, large gatherings of energized people can result in mob mentality and consequently collateral damage. If we can destroy and loot part of the city for the Blackhawks, we can definitely tolerate the destruction and looting that is a by product of protesting the murder of a black man and the continuous lack of justice for black victims. It’s important to think critically and not be easily swayed one way or another by what you see on the news or on social media.
Hoping this movement makes a positive change and doing what I can to help. The Community Bond Fund is a way to hep out protesters who are randomly arrested. Reach out to me @runwoodie or firstname.lastname@example.org or go right to @chibondfund for more info. We're in this shit together.