Ear to the Streets of Portland
RE today's show
This is an important discussion that we need to continue having. Perhaps in an upcoming show you could devote the whole time to the question of how nonviolence versus rioting or property damage plays out in political protest.
I think that “breaking windows” is probably inevitable at some point. However, the reason nonviolence is such a powerful tool is that there becomes no legitimate excuse to halt the protest by the powers that be. Persons of less lesser economic status are always careful or fearful of any protest which might wipe out the gains they have made. If rioting damages small black businesses, or if it tarnishes their image of innocent citizens standing against violence by the police, those are elements in a mix which could lose allies.
Also, street demonstrations alone will not and cannot accomplish political goals. Black lives matter succeeded in getting some concessions because they were built on years of organizing and assembling lists of alternatives to call for. Some people seem to believe that continuing to demonstrate will result in more concessions, I think that that there is the possibility that the rioting will backfire and result in increased oppression. Will mainstream America keep supporting republican candidates out of fear of us?
Another important aspect of this is whether the window breaking is done by sincere activists or by agent provocateurs. I suspect it's a little of both. The idea behind this and also behind, say, some of Extinction Rebellion’s civil disobedience is that the environmental movement, or the social justice movement, has not resulted in a better outcome thus far, so we have to do something stronger. I think this does an injustice to all the work and accomplishments thus far of the environmental and social justice movements, and also does nothing to prove that window breaking is better than peacefully negotiating or demonstrating. Our only hope in fact is to reason with the other side.
Rather than demonstrate in the streets, we need to be making huge efforts to explain ourselves, starting with discussing among ourselves exactly what it is that we want.