Why Must Civil Rights Protestors Make Such a Ruckus?

Civil Rights Icon John Lewis. Lewis died recently at age 80. Image by Lorie Shaull.

Few ideas are more incorrect than the idea that protestors on the street are the creators of civil unrest.

Let’s go through what actually goes on, step by step.

  1. A police officer pulls over a black American.
  2. The black American does absolutely nothing to suggest they are a danger to the cop or anyone else.
  3. The cop murders the black American anyways.
  4. The community goes out to the streets to tell their government to stop killing black Americans.
  5. The government says no it will not stop.
  6. The courts rule that the cops did nothing wrong.
  7. Without a shred of irony, law enforcement responds to calls that they’re too violent with even more violence. They’ll use tanks, tear gas, and giant rubber bullets against citizens in order to keep the peace.
  8. Next, the legislature passes no law ending qualified immunity or any other law giving police officers open range on citizens.
  9. Then people get angrier.

I would love for someone to explain to me how it is that is the instigator in this scenario above.

How is it that folks can truly–with a straight face–frame the protestors as the rioters? As if the protests seen in Minneapolis, or in Portland, or in Ferguson, are not in actuality occurring 6 or 7 steps a long string of abuse of power.

Who are the true instigators? It’s this: A government that is committed to acts of violence and equally committed to avoiding accountability for its violence.

“Do you know that in Albany, Georgia, nine of our leaders have been indicted, not by the Dixiecrats, but by the federal government for peaceful protest? But what did the federal government do when Albany’s deputy sheriff beat Attorney C.B. King and left him half-dead? What did the federal government do when local police officials kicked and assaulted the pregnant wife of Slater King, and she lost her baby?” –from John Lewis’ speech at the March on Washington, 1963.

Hi there. I write about public policy, politics, the presidency, and culture.

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