Reflecting on the justified protests and unrest following the murder of George Floyd by four police officers in Minneapolis, I have posted considerably in recent days about the various entities that have infiltrated these protests with malicious intentions. No defense is needed for the thousands of diverse and discontented citizens who have taken to the streets across America and around the globe to express grief, pain and solidarity while calling attention to the outrageous murders (including of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor—among others), and to condemn the pathetically loathsome response of officials in bringing prosecutorial justice to the murderers of Black bodies.
However, what ‘everyday’ righteous protestors did not seek, anticipate or deserve is the insertion of a wide range of malicious workers that have included militant members from right-wing White supremacist, Alt-right, Anarchist and ‘Accelerationist’ organizations, and on the left hand some highly organized and trained Antifa activists whose methodology includes confronting police in highly provocative ways. I will reserve discussion of the ‘looters’ til the end, because they exist in a separate complex category.
It is not an overstatement to say that in most respects the militant instigators and accelerators have hijacked many of the protests across the country, introducing a level of malice, violence, and property damage that is unrelated to the justice agenda of most of the protestors. They are primarily the ones starting these large fires, and spray painting the walls of buildings with graffiti such as “BLM – FUCK the Police – FUCK 12” and so much more. They are placing stacks of bricks to be thrown while also burning police vehicles. For whatever reasons, mainstream news organizations are slow to conduct the level of deep investigative work needed to analyze and expose the identities, motives, and methodologies of these entities on the air, instead of making only scant mention of them during on-air news coverage. In so do doing, even liberal media is failing our movement because they are keeping cameras trained on looters while neglecting the more difficult investigative reporting related to these infiltrators.
Law enforcement officials are aware of these perpetrators and increasingly have adapted their tactics to target and isolate these malicious actors during protest events. In Minnesota, the State Director of Public Safety reported during a news conference that upon their arrests, those persons were found to be in possession of accelerants (for causing the massive fires), weapons (including assault rifles), and stolen vehicles with tags removed loaded with bricks and tools. Some of those persons arrested in St. Paul/Minneapolis were residents of Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, and other states. This scene has been duplicated in other major cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, Nashville, and others.
We must be vigilant in revising our narrative to critique these malicious entities lest they distort our righteous justice narrative, and—even more sinister—expand the exploitation, victimization, and devastation in communities of color, and in jurisdictions with liberal or progressive governments. The extremely severe damage—including the huge fires and destruction of government property they are causing—is exacerbating the political and economic tensions between BIPOC and local business communities, local police and government officials, and will lengthen their recovery following the double impacts of pandemic and mass protests on their communities. These are very dangerous developments and we need to modify our thinking, planning, and activism in light of the devastation they are causing.
Honestly, I should devote an entirely different essay to looting, as it has such a complex history in capitalist America involving socially and economically marginalized groups. In the interest of brevity, I’ll simply say that looting is a crime of opportunity, it is wrong, and looting is one of the most American things that disadvantaged populations do in a time of crisis. For the record, looting is wrong because we should not take property that does not belong to us, and when it is done during a protest for justice, it distracts attention and resources from the main thing (although I observed that in many instances the looters entered properties only after those were violated and busted open by anarchists and infiltrators). And often, the looters themselves busted open businesses. I’ll admit, I would be mad and hurt if my own property was looted. Not unrelated though, we’ve are also witnessing right now the looting of billions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury during the coronavirus pandemic as moneys are allocated to enrich giant corporations and banks while everyday Americans are having to pander around and wait in long lines for scraps. Working poor people have had their labor, wages, and lives looted since forever in America. They pay inflated prices for inferior products and little respect every day in poor neighborhoods. I understand that this analysis won’t sit well with most readers, but for what its worst, the poor people looting are Les Misérables in the USA; and while their looting devastates business owners, they too have been devastated in this broken economy with no chance of ever rebounding. The senselessness we see of taking merchandise from violated properties exposes not simply the moral frame of mind of the looters, but also the demented moral state of our nation. Perhaps more on all that another day.