December 4, 2020

Serving No Cause

By Stephen Tuttle | Sept. 12, 2020

On May 25, George Floyd died in Minneapolis with a police officer's knee on his neck. The protests have not stopped since.

Additional violent interactions between police officers and African Americans, some obviously justified and others questionable, have kept the unrest roiling. There have now been protests in more than 1,000 U.S. cities and in 60 countries around the world, on every continent but Antarctica. 

The cause is social and criminal justice and an end to law enforcement bias against minorities, particularly Black Americans. The vast majority of those involved believe in their cause and, though angry and chanting, want to march without violence. The official Black Lives Matter organization has, as one of its primary tenets, nonviolent protest.

But way too many of these gatherings have not been peaceful at all. The lunatic fringes on the far left and far right have kidnapped the demands for reform and turned them into violent chaos. Their ideologies would not be recognizable to most of us.

Attorney General William Barr says he has spoken to all the chiefs of police in cities where the troubles are brewing, and they have assured him the cause is left-wing extremist groups. But at least a half-dozen chiefs have said they did not speak to Barr, and they are not at all sure who's responsible in their community.

There's ample blame to go around.

On the left are the anti-fascists (antifa). Webster's first definition of fascism is, “a government system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.” There's a lot in there to be against.

Antifa has no centralized national organization or leadership and, according to law enforcement, is a small collection of autonomous individuals in most cities. They have to stretch to link our capitalistic system to fascism, but U.S. antifa groups aren't too fond of government at all. They long for a day when government and commerce are community-to-community exercises, and we no longer need police. They do not shy from violence and particularly enjoy going after groups on the far right. Lately, they don't have to go far to find willing combatants.     

The far right now shows up to counter the protesters.

In fact, Barr's own Department of Justice (DOJ) says the biggest internal threat to our security isn't the extreme left, but racist white nationalists on the far right whose creed almost always includes violence.

Like antifa, extreme right-wing, super nationalistic organizations have members in most cities. Their intent is chaos, violence, and destruction. They've been showing up in greater numbers.

We know the first fires set in Minneapolis were by a white nationalist Ku Klux Klan sympathizer. We know members of Boogaloo, which advocates for a racial civil war, has been on the ground in Seattle and in Portland. We know the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist white supremacy group has been involved in the violence in Portland. We also know a neo-Nazi group calling themselves the Atomwaffen Division also has been agitating violence. 

The list of right-wing extremist groups is ever-growing. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps track of such things, now lists nearly 1,000 active hate groups in the U.S., about 75 percent of which are racially or ethnically motivated.

So, the peaceful protesters march while the extremists on both sides set out to fight each other, break stuff, and undermine our system of government. The destruction of private property is on the agenda along with increasing levels of violence, including murder. 

The initial cause is lost in a flurry of Molotov cocktails, bricks, and arson. 

There is reason to march in some U.S. cities with a long history of policing bias. Those now attempting reform may need a generation to slowly weed out the bad apples in their own ranks. We'll likely see more troubling videos before the cleansing is complete. We will not see the overwhelming majority of such interactions that are professional and completely peaceful. (It's noteworthy there have been no claims of law enforcement racial bias or excessive force in Northern Michigan for more than a decade.)

The legitimate protesters would be well served to find an approach that separates them from the troublemakers. The public understands the issue — we've all seen the horrific Floyd video — but the cause is lost in the smoke and flames. The nightly violence and destruction addresses no issue, serves no cause, and solves no problem.

The rest of us should reject the white supremacy and racial violence of the extreme right and the anti-government violence on the far left. Neither will win by throwing rocks, starting fires, and stealing. The change the nonviolent among us want can happen with our ballots in less than two months.


Transforming Manistee

The entrance to downtown Manistee, as it stands today, is drab. On each side of River Street for the first block, building... Read More >>

My Grandmother's Table

Gestures of love come in many forms. Gifting flowers, running errands for a sick loved one, wearing masks, or shoveling ou... Read More >>

A Girl, a Bird, and a Gardener

An unlikely trio of characters from the pen of a local author has inspired a concert-length musical composition by the aut... Read More >>

Northern Latitudes’ Bernie’s Brandy

The legendary spirit of Bernie Rink — aka The Godfather of Northern Michigan Wine — has been, you might say, b... Read More >>