Among the many confusions beset upon our boondoggled society at the moment is the question of just who the protesters, or rioters, or whatever you want call them, wrecking havoc in Portland are. To many on the left they are mostly peaceful protesters calling for an end to police violence. To most on the right they are violent anarchists who want to destroy America and have hijacked the Black Lives Matter movement to pursue their own agenda.
While the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle and also likely includes some young people just suffering from lockdown boredom, it would be extremely helpful to hear from the people who are engaged in violence or vandalism. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, radical groups that employed violence also spoke with a clear voice about their goals.
In this 1970 news clip an audiotape from the Weather Underground’s fugitive leader Bernardine Dorn is played. She makes her intentions and that of the group quite clear. The previous night they had blown up a statute of a policeman in Chicago. She announces an upcoming “Fall Offensive” and says among other things they will bring the helpless giant of the government to its knees and “guard your planes, guard your colleges, guard your banks, guard your children…”
Playing those words on the nightly news gave Americans a clear distinction between groups like the Weather Underground that expressly endorsed violence as Antifa now does, and large groups of protesters on peaceful marches. This is a distinction that in 2020 we have been unable to make, and it has paralyzed our nation’s response.
We are coming to know who these people are, so why aren’t we hearing directly from them? Over at The Post Millennial they have a breakdown of four people, all white, two attorneys, who were recently arrested and charged in the clashes in Portland. Why aren’t CNN or the New York Times reaching out to these people to explain why they think arson, shooting fireworks, throwing bricks, or Molotov cocktails is justified?
Part of the problem here as that Antifa is so loosely organized, there is no leader like Dorn to state a comprehensive message, but that doesn’t mean we can’t hear from people committing the violence. I mean, presumably the violence is done in the hopes of attaining something? What do they want? Do they want slight reallocation of money to police like Biden? Do they want police abolished? Do they want they want the government abolished?
This is not just a fringe element in the Portland protests at this point. Hundreds, sometimes thousands appear on the streets every night and though only a fraction engage in violence, they all play a part in it. At these kinds of protests, unlike the ones with tens of thousands that draw widely from the community, the hard core activists are generally divided into two groups. There are those planning to take direct action (do something illegal) or those there to support that action.
That support can take many forms, including having water and supplies, or giving first aid, but the most important form of support is that the protestors not directly engaged become a shield that those directly engaged can sink into. This is why we have seen federal agents target individuals for detainment rather than the large-scale arrests you see in a typical large protest.
All of this is to say that pretty much anyone at the Portland riots can explain what the justification is for arson and violent actions. After all,
if they were against such things they would go home once those actions started rather giving it cover. But we aren’t hearing from them. They aren’t being asked why are you destroying things and what would make you stop?
Ted Wheeler, the hapless mayor of Portland wandered into the crowd on Thursday night, with a security detail of course, and found himself heckled and harassed by the “peaceful protestors” to the point where he had to be ushered back inside, you can see him looking back in frustration as if to say, “but I’m on your side.” Apparently the rioters don’t think so, to them he’s just another tool of the evil state.
Wheeler leaves the scene. Protesters throw water bottles at him and curse him. He manages to get inside a building after a scuffle between protesters and his security detail. pic.twitter.com/eRn2gWlpqm
— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) July 23, 2020
A cynic might argue that the media is refusing to let these people speak for themselves because it undermines their narrative that the protests are by and large peaceful and there are just a few bad eggs. But a few bad eggs don’t keep a city under siege for nearly two months. It is time to hear from Antifa, it is time to hear from those who justify violence, it is time to find out what they want and what will make the violence end. Their answer will not be something we can comply with, but at least we will know where we stand.