Opinion: Talk to Protesters

By Ed Dalton

On cue, a cacophony of full time couch sitters decry the protest movement. They often do this by way of some professed concern for ‘safety’ and some of them are even shockingly well-meaning. In an attempt to harness runaway imaginations and to correct mistaken ideas, we must examine some of the more common denunciations of the protest movement.

Idea 1: Mass Protests Spread Covid-19

This could be categorized under ‘reasonable concern’ when it is made from a genuine interest of protecting at-risk and elderly people from death. However, it is most often parroted online by right-wing trolls, the same who brought you the ‘coronavirus is a hoax’ narrative and assembled en masse to demand the reopening of states amid a high point in the pandemic, most of them not even bothering to wear masks or sanitize, (and recently considering masks to be ‘government tyranny’ while being silent when it comes to the police using mask laws to beat arrest and harm non-white people.)

The right-wing “reopen” actions are a blatant example of unnecessary protest to protect business owners and exploit workers while putting them at risk of infection. The reality on the ground, if you actually talk to protesters, is that all of them see defending Black lives as essential protest, most of them wear masks. Many who have spoken to Tribune of the People have even remarked that they sought testing after large demonstrations and due to their precautions came back negative. It would be reasonable to decry bar hopping, water parks, and Republican Conventions, all things the state of Texas has allowed to sporadically continue. This being the case, the same state seeks to take the heat off the police by denouncing protests and pretending to care all of a sudden. Wear a mask, and do not take unnecessary risks. Combating and resisting racist police violence is essential – it is essential protest and it is unstoppable in the long-term.

Idea 2: Demonstrations are the Cause of Police Violence

Here we have an idea, however misguided, that is just backward and repulsive. It was not protests that caused the Minneapolis PD to murder George Floyd, LAPD to murder Alex Flores, or Austin PD to murder Mike Ramos, or any of the other too numerous instances of police murder and brutality that draw people to protest. The police departments around the country already had a job to do —violently repress people. It is time to stop kidding ourselves into believing that these are the indiscretions of a few bad cops.

The problem is part of the fundamental fabric of policing in a class society, where the owners of private property must have their ability to exploit protected at the expense of those who can only sell their labor power. When talking to protesters, we hear the same story coast to coast – the police initiated violence to protect private property and cash flow. In many cases they prompted violence just to stop people from voicing condemnation against the police. In most instances, protesters already know who is on their side and who is against them, with only the most backward among them having the level of disassociation required to forget that the violence wielded by the people was caused by police violence generally. If the cops are murdering Black people, and the people generally bloody a few cops, this is not even nearing justice. These are simply the most nascent attempts at social self-defense in response to the socially degenerating and parasitic gang known as the police. It is certainly not those who rise up against police violence who are to blame for said police violence. When the people harness violence, it is to defend the lives of the oppressed against the oppressor, and not at all comparable to their daily torments. As far as “violence begetting violence” is concerned, police violence has yet to have its chickens come home to roost. It has sown far more that it has reaped, but history moves in the direction of the people really paying the enemy back with interest.

Idea 3: Non-Violence Today

Abysmally a lower bar than the non-violence of the 1960’s. Non-violence is already a misnomer. Those who do not engage in violence still receive it at the hands of the police, from reactionaries, racists, etc… Aggressive or militant “non-violence” only serves to allow the state to be the only force using violence. While they accept this, their “commitment to non-violence” only enhances state violence by serving up those defending themselves to the very forces the protests are against. There is nothing else to it, they are violent, they are just on the same side of violence as the state. A politician who signs a war decree has more blood on his hands than the common infantryman who fires the gun, distance here is not the qualifying factor.

Non-Violent protesters in the 1960s faced off against brutal police violence

Protesters will tell you something similar if you talk to them. Most of those who do not engage in violence still know which side they are on, they do not seek to divide themselves in the state’s interest between ‘violent’ and ‘non-violent’ protesters. ‘Violence’ is just a term the police use to throw at those who they fear the most, regardless of individual engagement. It is beyond time to denounce the division and stand firm, the people against the police! In most cases, all protesters refrain from violence, but violence is not a simple choice, it is surrounded by events, circumstance, and class issues. A ‘non-violent’ person will at times, in certain circumstances, be compelled to resort to violence and this is reasonable and justified. There is no such thing as violence for the sake of violence or power for the sake of power, class and social status of oppressed groups justify the use of revolutionary violence that serves the people.

Idea 4: Stop Protesting and Vote

This is perhaps one of the worst ideas uttered about the mass protests. Protesters do not differ from the rest of the society when it comes to voting, those who make less, those who face racist oppression and younger protesters, more often do not vote. This is not because they do not care. Talk to them and they will tell you, it is because they have no options. Voting did not, does not, and will not work in the peoples’ interests. Voting got us here, rebelling will get us out of here.

Plenty of other protesters do vote, they still lack the revolutionary viewpoint that voting in the sham elections of the ruling class only offers consent to their rule. The least we can do is stop consenting to the oppression and exploitation of the people. But even these protesters will tell you, that they can keep protesting and continue to vote, that protesting in no way deceases their ability to cast a meaningless ballot that selects which oppressor will continue oppressing them. The electoral cretins (rat drug dealers of ruling class ideology) do not seek diversification or increasing voting, they treat voting as an all powerful thing, regardless of what is actually being voted for. They treat the means as the end and they do this to try and corral the people back into the pig pens of the state as it exists today. Their role is fully negative, to snuff out what can help change the world and ensure the only activity sanctioned by the powers that be, voting for them. Anytime one of the most backward in the movement gets a microphone they make this clear, they insist everyone votes, and seldom instruct anyone on material choices—because there are none.

There are no candidates which represent an end to capitalism and racism. The protest movement, even in is newborn form, still contains this promise of a better world. Protesting is not going to end capitalism, but it is legitimate and brings people together to learn of their own potential power, this is far more valid and affirming than voting for a racist like Joe Biden, or a racist like Donald Trump.

Monopoly media company CNN with headline “It all may have been for nothing.”

Idea: 5 Protesting Doesn’t work anyway

This is common spittle running from the mouths of burnouts and attention seekers who pack their bags and head for city hall the moment things get rough or the cameras stop filming. Their narrow conception of “what works” is limited to the amount of bread crumbs they can beg from the masters’ table. Ask a protester and you just might hear that it is working, people without a platform got one, it only took about a thousand broken storefronts and dozens of torched cop cars, but they were heard and for a moment the earth shook. It works – they are learning to speak louder and only those who have lost their last shreds of decency can remain deaf. No good end will come to them.

The protest movement is working in other ways too, mainly by providing space to fight for a better world, a struggle in which leaders emerge to help form stable bodies of resistance. Such leaders exist outside of the morass of the system and one of them is worth a thousand reforms and infinitely worth more than the empty promises of the ruling class and their police. The system does not move in the people’s favor unless it is attacked. This must be organized and fortified and it is working.

These are just a few of the specters raised by those who do not have the courage or decency to rise to the times and join the movement, they should be corrected, with the understanding that not everyone can protest or take action themselves, in this case at the very least, they should offer up unreserved support for those that can and those that do. One way to do this is financially, through supporting fundraising for legal defense and political prisoner support. Another way is through challenging these ideas wherever they arise leaving them no place to hide and spread their surrendering influence. This sometimes means uncomfortable arguments, it sometimes means patient education, other times it means just propagating the rights of the people, denouncing media and state attempts at apprehending protesters. In other cases it requires a relentless and combative approach. Everyone has something to offer, find out what it is for you and join the fight. If you are in the fight keep fighting. Feel free to send us common bad ideas, or questions that the protesters themselves are in the process of answering.