This past weekend, 2020 reminded us that it is like one of those venereal diseases that requires all the antibiotics as it continues to dig a hole in search of a bottom that will likely never be found.
Protesters have spent the last few days taking to the streets of cities, big and small, in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day. Starting last Friday, those protests devolved into riots, looting and violence in seemingly every major U.S. city. The unrest managed to knock COVID-19 off the front page of every major media publication for the first time in months.
Images of a police car barreling through protesters in New York City, folks looting stores in the heart of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and Nashville’s courthouse and City Hall building set on fire closed out what might have been the bleakest weekend in what’s already a dumpster fire of a year. On Saturday, mayors of several of these cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Detroit issued nighttime curfews on top of the existing shelter-in-place quarantines. It’s enough to send anyone who wasn’t already on the brink of mental overload completely beyond the edge.
The issue of riots and looting as tools of revolutionary social change is complex and nuanced; cogent arguments can be made in favor of them being a necessary manifestation of outrage or an unnecessary exacerbation of the problem. Violence as a response toward consistent maltreatment is certainly reflexive, and its use as a means of civil uprising is historical – just crack open a textbook. I’m sure that frustration behind the quarantine, economic fallout and existential dread related to the virus has fueled the collective rage.
The issue, which is often the case when protests go left, is that Black folks are immediately dragged through the mud as the “problem” by people who seem far less concerned about what really needs to be fixed.
Then there are the covert members of white supremacists’ groups using George Floyd’s death as an opportunity to infiltrate and derail the movement for justice. demonstrations. As Vice News reported, several members of a group called the Boogaloo Bois, a far-right term used as code to incite civil war, were identified in several cities taking this opportunity to express their abject hate for law enforcement. It was not done in the name of Black Lives Matter, but in the vein of only their lives matter.
Black people have been called “thugs” from everyone all the way up to y’all’s president, who had no problem using that coded language in the same tweet that he threatened to bust a cap in the ass of looters.
Here’s the thing, though: We have cameras and s--- now. They’re in all of our pockets and purses and they shoot high-definition video. Clips from protests around the country make it abundantly clear that, in many if not most cases, non-Black folks are fomenting violence and turning otherwise peaceful protests into something more ominous.
In several of the videos, Black people are seen actually trying to prevent the white people from being the true thugs.
There’s even proof suggesting that the police themselves are going undercover to stir up trouble, presumably to give their colleagues a reason to whip some protestor ass. They’re the reason behind all of this, after all, and their willingness to arrest a benign CNN crew proves that they have no interest in fair play.
Reports from municipalities across the country insist that many of the destructive protesters are coming in from outside of the communities in which they’re “protesting.” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz stated that about 80 percent of arrests were folks outside of the state. He stressed that what’s happening there “is no longer about George Floyd.”
Compounding the issue, word from the White House suggests that these white supremacists and other extremists are being planted in the protests specifically to raise hell – perhaps as a means of jump-starting that pesky race war they’ve been working on for a while. President Donald Trump labeled Antifa – a far-left-wing, anti-fascist movement – a “terrorist organization,” which is likely more Trump bulls---. Though I’m sure he’d never call the right-wing equivalent of Antifa “terrorists” or “thugs.”
Regardless of race, there’s no excusing the behavior of anyone co-opting the protests to be opportunistic or needlessly destructive: George Floyd didn’t die so you could cop a new pair of Js or a 4K television for free-99. But the next time anyone wants to target Black folks as the sole problem behind your city getting torn up, point them to the countless links to video on social media that tell a different story.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted on Saturday recognized that these white nationalist organizations are doing the most to push another agenda here and promised to put efforts into play to combat the white violence they are spreading.
"We are now confronting white supremacists, members of organized crime, out of state instigators, and possibly even foreign actors to destroy and destabilize our city and our region," Frey said in a tweet.
The bottom line is this: it wasn’t Black and brown people throwing stuff at the police or setting fires to property, but we are the ones being arrested, teargassed, and tasered. Look closely, critically, deeply, and intently to what is going on so that you don’t miss the real agenda at hand.
BET has been covering every angle of George Floyd’s death in police custody, other social justice cases and the subsequent aftermath and protests. For our continuing coverage, click here.
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at wafflecolored.com.
Photo by PHILIP PACHECO/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images