Fire I'll take you to burn (from the lyric to the song "Fire" by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, 1968)
-- "50th anniversary of Kent State University shootings: May 4th"
While there have been plenty of demonstrations that haven't ended in mayhem, with the rioting across the country as a part of demonstrations against the killing of George Floyd ending up in looting and myriads of property destruction in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Salt Lake City, etc., it's hard to know what to think.
I understand the rage, especially the symbolism of the burning down of the Third Precinct police station in Minneapolis.
But destroying stores like Target, I don't understand. Or destroying police cars in a place like Salt Lake. Well, I do think I understand.
From the standpoint of revolutionary practice, taking advantage of events like demonstrations to foment violence in the name of revolution is the name of the game ("An Inside Look at the Antifa Movement," NBC Bay Area).
The New Radical Chic? Protesters climb on a flipped over police vehicle Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Salt Lake City. Thousands of people converged on downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and some demonstrators set fire to a police car and threw eggs and wrote graffiti on a police station. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Then again, there is the general rage, which builds up over time, over how policing preferences the wealthy, whites, property, capital, and rioting is at the very least, understandable ("Did The 1965 Watts Riots Change Anything?," JSTOR). From the article:
... when researchers went out and actually talked with people in the neighborhood, they found a very different story. Looking at interviews with 586 black adults who lived within the curfew zone that marked the area of the riots, Sears and Tomlinson found that 22 percent said they’d been at least somewhat involved in the unrest. Fifty-six percent said the unrest had a purpose or goal, and 58 percent expected it to have favorable effects. And, while 50 percent said their overall feeling about the riots was unfavorable, more than a quarter reported feeling favorably about them. Even among those who were unhappy that the riots happened, 75 percent described it in terms like “a shame” or “a sad thing,” while only a quarter used words suggesting blame, like “disgrace,” “unnecessary,” or “senseless.”In Planning in the Public Domain, John Friedmann distinguishes between (1) rote work based on the maintenance of the state; (2) radical practice, which challenges convention but still respects the boundaries of government and the social contract; and (3) revolutionary practice, which challenges the boundaries of government and is willing to go beyond.
There is a great essay in the Guardian, "The answer to police violence is not 'reform'. It's defunding. Here's why," by Alex Vitale, Brooklyn College professor and author of the book The End of Policing (review).
Vitale argues that policing is ‘a tool for managing deeply entrenched inequalities’ that are organised along the intersecting terrains of race, class, gender and sexuality. This convincing critique of law enforcement underpins Vitale’s view that ‘any real agenda for police reform must look to replace police with empowered communities working to solve their own problems’.The book is organised into ten chapters that look at the criminalisation of different communities, including school children, sex workers and homeless people.The Silent Majority/White fear of unrest as a political force that favors conservative responses. Although, like how charlie made the point that it is likely that #BlackLivesMatter and the negative response by money helped to elect Donald Trump, I fear that the current demonstrations and rioting will help to peal off white support for Joseph Biden ("Echoes of the ‘silent majority,’ 50 years after Richard Nixon’s speech," Boston Globe; "This rage isn’t just for George Floyd. It’s for every victim of the police like him.," Washington Post) and could contribute to Trump's re-election ("This is the presidency George Wallace never had," Washington Post, albeit possibly without winning the popular vote, just like last time.
In the opening chapter, ‘The Limits of Police Reform’, Vitale examines how reforming police training concerning the use of physical force ignores a deeper, ‘casual disregard’ for black lives. Police training is part of the problem, since it is highly militarised and provided by private companies that serve police and military clients. The chapter discredits the liberal assumption that a more diverse police force equals a less racist one – diversity training is pointless since racism shapes official police procedure.
This song, from 1968, keeps popping into my mind.