Violence as a Response to Injustice

Violence as a Response to Injustice

Katie D'Angelo, Junior, Staff Reporter

While a peaceful solution to a problem is always preferable, violent revolt has always has been a part of the American story. To those who watch the riots surrounding the Black Lives Matters movement in horror, there is absolutely nothing un-American about even the ugliest side of the protests George Floyd’s murder has kicked off. In fact, it’s as American as apple pie.

The first shots in the American Revolution were fired six years before 1776, the year of the republic’s birth, in what became known as the Boston Massacre of 1770. The way the rebels in that instance were described, in the lexicon of the day, echoes loudly in the way the protesters today are presented. The instigator of the encounter with a troop of British soldiers in Boston, Crispus Attucks, a man who, ironically, was described as “a stout mulatto fellow.”.

Abolitionist John Brown advocated the use of armed force as a means of disassemble the institution of slavery, raiding a federal armory at Harper’s Ferry in 1859 in an attempt to do so.

Though the civil-rights era of the 1960s was a movement of nonviolence and civil disobedience, it was an orchestrated response to violence. Violence at the voting booth. Violence at the lunch counter. Violence that bombed a church with four little black girls inside. Violence that left a bloated Black boy in an open casket. Violence that left a Black husband and father murdered in his driveway. Violence in the death of Martin Luther King Jr. In response, his death ignited riots in more than 100 cities.

If violence is a political language, white Americans are native speakers. But Black people are also fluent in the act of resistance. Crispus Attucks stood up to British tyranny. The numerous slave rebellions led by Gabriel Prosser, Charles Deslondes, and Nat Turner were all attempts to gain freedom with force. Throughout the 20th century, Black Americans armed themselves in the face of white mobs and organized protection for their freedom marches. Accordingly, when George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others were killed by police brutality, Black people and their allies chose to rise up and fight for their right to live.

These riots in America are a result of hundreds of years of Black oppression in this country by slavery, police forces, the justice system, housing, the medical field, and so on. They started as peaceful protests, vigils held in George Floyd’s honor, but the police responded with riot gear, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Tear gas is uniquely designed to make its victims miserable. When a canister of tear gas is fired and detonates, it releases a cloud that engulfs anyone nearby. Chemicals in the gas sting their eyes, skin, and even their airways, and excruciating pain pulses throughout the body. It causes its victims to cough, sneeze, and form so much mucus it can feel like they’re being suffocated. Ultimately, they’re forced to run away.  Tear gas is banned in war, but not on our streets. A protestor, Sarah Grossman, had been engulfed in a cloud of tear gas and died two days later because of complications from the gas. These deaths and arrests made at protests have only further spurred on the protestors, who are fighting exactly that.

So when one looks at television footage of rioting throughout the United States, understand that protestors are responding to the violence incited by others. Instead of being outraged by the protest, perhaps we should be outraged by what they are protesting against.