Violence Is Necessary
Violence has always has been central to the American story, and there is absolutely nothing un-American about even the ugliest side effects of the protests George Floyd’s murder has kicked off. This includes the pillaging, the looting, and the random, senseless brutalities. 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 description of the rebels in that instance, in the lexicon of the day, loudly echoes the way the protesters are presented today. Crispus Attucks, the instigator in the encounter with a troop of British soldiers in Boston, appears as “a stout mulatto fellow”, whose very looks was enough to terrify any person.
Americans like to harken back to the civil-rights era as a movement of nonviolence and civil disobedience. But what they don’t realise is that movement 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 resulted in a Black husband and father murdered in his own driveway. The movement ended with the violent 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. 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.
The 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. Sarah Grossman, a protestor, was engulfed in a cloud of tear gas and died two days later as a result of respiratory complications. These deaths and arrests made at protests have only further spurred on the protestors, who are fighting exactly that. They are responding to the violence incited by some of the police, and will not stop until there is justice.