Opinion

What exactly are truly peaceful protesters protesting?

Officers, in the proverbial heat of battle, don’t have the luxury of determining who’s peaceful and who’s violent.

Image Credit: Unsplash/AJ Colores

Our nation, including its police officers, were united in their condemnation after seeing the dreadful images of a police officer kneeling for some eight-plus minutes on George Floyd’s neck in Minneapolis after which Mr. Floyd died.

However, a few weeks later, who even talks about Mr. Floyd any longer? We’re all talking about the violent mobs that have ransacked, burned buildings, looted businesses (many belonging to or employing black residents), destroyed or caused police to abandon police stations, and assaulted and killed people.

And with the ongoing crime occurring in Seattle’s deadly CHOP zone, the prevalent violence in some of America’s biggest cities and not what happened to Mr. Floyd is what a divided people are now thinking about. Still, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan would have you believe the problem isn’t that bad because the killing only occurs at night and not during the day when Durkanistan is the model of a mostly peaceful “summer of love.” Anyone else feel better?

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The rioters and insurgents’ motivations are clear, and their violent actions speak for themselves. Some want to steal stuff, others want to destroy and burn stuff, and still others want a violent socialist revolution. For some particularly destructive sociopaths, the lines blur, and they do it all.

Let’s take a moment and look at the ongoing protests and riots from the perspective of the truly peaceful protesters because there are some realities we must address which the protesters should acknowledge and for which they should accept some responsibility. In fact, I wrote about this precise issue in my book, “De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State.”

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The peaceful protesters’ motivations are less clear because they may not be so sure about what they are doing or why. They just need to feel they are contributing and for people to see them doing something…woke.

We keep hearing politicians and media applying the words protests and protesters to something that is no longer recognizable as legitimate protest. Again, in places like Seattle’s CHAZ/CHOP Fantasy Island they are not protesting. It’s an ongoing crime. It is pure insurrection disguised as protest to exploit First Amendment protections. There is nothing peaceable about that assembly.

We have to ask: what exactly are the peaceful protesters protesting? In Minneapolis, a police officer killed a man whose actions did not warrant it. However, there has been nearly universal condemnation of the officer, including from law enforcement at all levels. Does that matter? Apparently, not.

The Minneapolis authorities immediately fired the main culprit and three other officers, and they arrested the primary officer who was then charged with murder and manslaughter. The other three officers have now also been charged. There is literally nothing else that can be done until the investigation is complete and the case goes to court.

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Many peaceful protesters say they “don’t like the police killing so many black people.” But that assertion is a provable myth. First, there are some 800,000 police officers in America. Yet, in 2019, only 235 black suspects were killed by police officers (police shot and killed 370 white people last year). If 800,000 cops were racist and intent on killing black people, as the radicals contend, wouldn’t the numbers be significantly higher?

Second, do the peaceful protesters truly believe all 235 black people killed, or even a majority or significant minority of that number, were unjustified? The statistics show that the vast majority of suspects shot were violent, armed or otherwise dangerous felons.

Some like to juxtapose the number of black suspects killed compared with police officers killed as if law enforcement is supposed to be a fair fight between cops and criminals. The police deal not with a criminal’s race but with a criminal’s behavior. Unfortunately, there are rare (yes, they really are quite rare) circumstances such as those that ended George Floyd’s life in Minneapolis.

Third, it is the peaceful protesters’ rejection of these facts that has helped to create and proliferate the myth that the police are engaging in wanton brutality against minorities. These lies are so frustrating because they are so demonstrably untrue.

Why is it so hard to believe that leftists, politicians, media, academia, and radicals who want to collapse the United States as we know it would fabricate lies to accomplish their political goals? And the peaceful protesters, many of whom do not support violent revolution, nevertheless believe the myth and then the Black Lives Matter Marxist movement exploits them to use for cover. Sadly, many of the peaceful protesters believe the same false narratives that the violent insurrectionists do.

This is not to say legitimate protests shouldn’t occur. They should. But I do say the peaceful protesters should acknowledge and accept their portion of the responsibility to their community when helping to provide an opportunity for criminals and insurgents to loot, damage property, commit arson, and assault and kill people including police officers. The insurrectionists, rioters, and looters simply could not operate as effectively without the peaceful protesters acting as shields.

Consider this from what reads like a police after-action report published anonymously at CrimethInc.com ostensibly by radicals claiming to have been at the sacking of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct:

Peaceful Protestors

The non-violent tactics of peaceful protesters served two familiar aims and one unusual one: “They created a spectacle of legitimacy, which was intensified as police violence escalated. They created a front line that blocked police attempts to advance when they deployed outside of the Precinct. In addition, in an unexpected turn of affairs, the peaceful protestors shielded those who employed projectiles [at this point, there is no pretense of being “peaceful”].

“Whenever the police threatened tear gas or rubber bullets, non-violent protesters lined up at the front with their hands up in the air, chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” Sometimes they kneeled, but typically only during relative lulls in the action. When the cops deployed outside the Precincts, their police lines frequently found themselves facing a line of “non-violent” protestors. This had the effect of temporarily stabilizing the space of conflict and gave other crowd members a stationary target. While some peaceful protestors angrily commanded people to stop throwing things, they were few and grew quiet as the day wore on. This was most likely because the police were targeting people who threw things with rubber bullets early on in the conflict, which enraged the crowd. It’s worth noting that the reverse has often been the case—we are used to seeing more confrontational tactics used to shield those practicing non-violence (e.g., at Standing Rock and Charlottesville). The reversal of this relationship in Minneapolis afforded greater autonomy to those employing confrontational tactics.”

I’m not blaming the peaceful protesters for initiating the violence; I’m just pointing out the unintended consequences of their choices of what, where, and when to protest. Can anyone deny the “peaceful” provide a platform from which the violent can launch their attacks?

I saw this firsthand on the front lines of the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle. While there were some protesters denouncing the violence, there were plenty who tacitly assisted the violence and some who overtly shielded troublemakers. I’ll never forget watching even members of major trade unions helping protect those who were being violent.

This brings up another issue. When a peaceful demonstration becomes a riot, how can police tell the difference between a peaceful protester and a violent rioter? Here’s the harsh reality: they can’t. For example, is a protester violent when he throws a brick at the cops, but suddenly peaceful after the fact because he has no more bricks to throw—until he picks up another brick?

If you read “riot” statutes they normally contain texts that telegraph if a protester chooses to remain in a violent crowd after the police have given a public order to disperse (usually given by a ranking supervisor over a loudspeaker, for my department, three times) they are a part of the riot.

Officers, in the proverbial heat of battle, don’t have the luxury of determining who’s peaceful and who’s violent. Insurgents mix in within the “peaceful” protesters and lash out violently when they get a chance, then morph back into a “peaceful” mode. That’s why, once the order has been given to leave the area, it’s best everyone leaves.

For those “peaceful” protesters, you have an obligation to civil society to do two things: first, challenge yourself to research the actual statistics regarding “police brutality.” And, second, think about the harm you’re doing to your community and the nation when you act as a shield for Marxist, socialist, and anarchist revolutionaries. You may not want to believe that’s what they are, but that doesn’t change the fact that is what they are. How do we know? They keep telling us that is what they are.

meet the author

Steve Pomper is a retired Seattle police officer. He's served as a field training officer and on the East Precinct Community Police Team. He's the author of four books, including "De-Policing America: A Street Cop's View of the Anti-Police State." He's also a contributor to the National Police Association.

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