by Daisy Luther
Part of the “new normal” in America seems to be battle zones erupting across the nation. I’m not just talking about protests, but full-on sieges that may last for days, weeks, or even months. Some of these began due to acts of police brutality, while others have taken on lives of their own with wholesale looting and violence.
The United States of America we see today is incredibly different from the one we saw at the beginning of the year. We’ve been wracked by a pandemic, a subsequent economic catastrophe, and massive, widespread civil unrest.
Let’s take a look at these pockets of violent behavior. (WARNING: This article contains videos with violent content.)
Yesterday, police officers shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back as he tried to enter the vehicle where his children were. Blake is in stable condition and expected to live, but the shocking video has spread virally across social media. You can see the cell phone footage below. (Violence Warning)
Police shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black father, several times in the back today in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was getting into his car after apparently breaking up a fight between two women. His three sons were inside the car and witnessed a cop shooting their father! He’s pic.twitter.com/3maVuX5qYk
— Prince (@Prince31590353) August 24, 2020
Kenosha, a city in Wisconsin of about one hundred thousand people, quickly erupted in protest of the shooting. (Never think these things only happen in large cities – here is an inside look at the Ferguson riots of 2014.)
This is in Kenosha , Wisconsin spread the word. They are still killing unarmed black men for no reason we need to fight for this injustice #blm #Kenosha #Wisconsin #Milwaukee #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/3laibzeQet
— Brandon Fragoso (@BrandonFragos12) August 24, 2020
Escape the cities… https://t.co/iTuuObjJQq
— TheMadPrepper (@TheMadPrepper) August 24, 2020
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) August 24, 2020
Protests, riots, and looting are expected to continue in Kenosha.
Not only is Colorado currently beset by wildfires, but it’s also plagued with violent civil unrest. Over the weekend, rioters set out to destroy property in downtown Denver.
Antifa are smashing the windows of every storefront in Denver, Colorado. pic.twitter.com/mhw2xxeSjw
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) August 23, 2020
One Twitter user reported that a group of protesters had gathered in front of a police department in Denver, and that a van pulled up to hand out shields.
A protest in front of Denver Police headquarters is small but has escalated quickly. About 50 protesters are here right now, many with shields and helmets. A van pulled up and passed out shields to protesters. Protesters are at a standoff with a SWAT team now #9News pic.twitter.com/XlzmcenfG9
— Marc Sallinger (@MarcSallinger) August 23, 2020
The Denver “protesters” called for the abolition of police.
A group of about 40 people protested outside the Denver Police Department headquarters Saturday night and marched through streets in the area, blocking traffic. Some clashed with officers, set fires and broke windows…
…Chemical agents were deployed to control the crowd and eight people were taken into custody…
…Copter4 was over 13th and Delaware when people in the group were breaking windows.
People in the group set two small fires, which were quickly extinguished. (source)
Riots have been ongoing in Portland for months, and this weekend, several notable events occurred.
On Saturday, rioters fought one another in the streets.
Protesters at Portland rallies to show support for police and President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign engaged in physical combat repeatedly with counterprotesters Saturday without police intervention. Members of the chaotic crowd used an array of weapons, including baseball bats and firearms to beat and threaten those they opposed…
…Pro-Trump demonstrators, people carrying shields with references to the QAnon conspiracy theory and members of the Proud Boys — a self-described chauvinist group that regularly engages in violence — all gathered around noon, some carrying rifles…
…Counterprotesters from anti-fascist groups like Popular Mobilization PDX also gathered Saturday, and the two groups quickly began shouting at each other and engaging in tense, face-to-face confrontations in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center.
Within an hour of meeting, protesters began to push each other and throw objects. Some demonstrators on the pro-police side fired paintball guns and deployed pepper spray on counterdemonstrators. Other protesters used baseball bats. Many people wore helmets and body armor as they punched, kicked and tore at each other. (source)
This isn’t just a few people yelling and chanting. This is outright fighting – physical violence.
Fighting in the streets pic.twitter.com/8EnuhN5V4q
— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) August 22, 2020
Conservative rioters left the area in the afternoon, but the remaining rioters continued to become increasingly violent into the night until teargas was released to disperse crowds.
The police did not declare an event because they “didn’t have the resources to handle one.”
In a press release distributed Saturday afternoon, Portland police said its officers did not intervene to stop the fighting because those involved “willingly” engaged, its forces were stretched too thin from policing 80+ nights of protests, and the bureau didn’t feel the clashes would last that long.
“Each skirmish appeared to involve willing participants and the events were not enduring in time, so officers were not deployed to intervene,” the release states. (source)
On Sunday night, the NY Post reported that rioters set fire to a police precinct.
Black Lives Matter militants set fire to a police station in Portland Sunday night during yet another night of violence in the Oregon city.
The march on the Portland Police Bureau’s north precinct had already been declared an unlawful assembly as police say they were pelted with “rocks and bottles” and had “powerful green lasers” pointed at them.
But a mob of at least 300 continued to advance despite repeated warnings by police — and lit an awning on the precinct ablaze… (source)
The fire was extinguished without injuries.
A week ago, a man was seriously injured when he was pulled from his vehicle and brutally attacked during an “otherwise peaceful demonstration.”
A crowd gathered around him and repeatedly punched and kicked him in the head until he was bloody.
Witnesses told police the man had been helping a transgender female who had an item of hers stolen, and he was dragged out of the car and beat by nine or 10 people. When police arrived the man was unconscious.
Portland police said their response to the assault was “complicated by a hostile group.” (source)
Shockingly, only one person has been charged in the attack, 25-year-old Marquise Love.
It’s important to note that Portland’s new district attorney, Mike Schmidt, has refused to prosecute protesters that commit criminal acts. The New York Times reports that since he took office on August 1 of this year, he has dismissed charges against half of the more than 600 people who have been arrested for crimes like interfering with the police, disorderly conduct and trespassing. Charges that involve assaulting officers will “require closer scrutiny, with prosecutors taking into account in filing charges whether the police fired tear gas into crowds.”
Unsurprisingly, local law enforcement believes that Schmidt’s policies are making matters worse.
Mr. Schmidt said Portland police leaders told him that they were concerned the directive would lead to more police injuries, though he said nothing prevented officers from making lawful arrests they deemed necessary. (The Portland police chief, Chuck Lovell, said the force “will continue to do the job the community expects of us.”)
The sheriff, Mike Reese, warned Mr. Schmidt in an email that some protesters were bent on “starting fires, damaging property and assaulting police, community members,” adding, “They may feel even more emboldened if there is a public statement that appears to minimize their activities.” In response to one of the sheriff’s concerns, Mr. Schmidt said he revised the policy to greenlight prosecutions for rioting in cases where a defendant was accused of serious offenses.
The Oregon State Police also took a parting shot at Mr. Schmidt as troopers pulled back after a two-week deployment at the protests this month, saying they preferred to put resources in “counties where prosecution of criminal conduct is still a priority.” (source)
The violence in Portland shows no sign of relenting.
Seattle has been the site of some of the most destructive and violent riots in the country – and considering everything I’ve just written about – that’s saying a lot. Riots began back in
A group of protestors took over a six-block area near the Capitol in Seattle, initially naming it the CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone) and then changing the name of the area to CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupy Protest) – a move that some have considered extremely meaningful. Riots have taken place on a regular basis and the hands of responders have been tied by the local government.
Initially, the local government in Seattle agreed to slash the police budget by 50% in response to the riots protests, but interestingly, most of the politicians have walked back their initial statements.
In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, and widespread police brutality and anti-racist protests, a veto-proof majority of council members voiced their support for defunding the police, slashing 50% of the department’s budget.
But since then, they’ve faced a series of logistical roadblocks and clashed with other city leaders, and ultimately all but one of them have walked back their statements.
The council instead voted for a much smaller round of cuts, including reducing the salaries of Carmen Best, who is Seattle’s chief of police, and members of her command staff as well as trimming about 100 of the department’s 1,400 police officers. (source)
Two days ago, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan vetoed the cuts, but this didn’t stop Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best from announcing her immediate retirement. It’s possible that part of the reason Mayor Durkan changed her tune is, hypocritically, that hundreds of angry protesters arrived to protest in her own neighborhood.
That march prompted the mayor to ask the City Council to investigate Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who took part in the June demonstration. Because Durkan’s address hasn’t been publicly disclosed due to her background as a former U.S. attorney, she said the march was organized with a “reckless disregard of the safety of (her) family and children.” (source)
At the time of publication, protests and riots have been ongoing in Seattle for 87 days.
Chicago has long been the site of carnage and gang violence, but things have escalated to an entirely different level. On August 10th, an upscale shopping district was pillaged after this shooting occurred.
Hundreds of people swept through the Magnificent Mile and other parts of downtown Chicago early Monday, smashing windows, looting stores and confronting police after officers shot a suspect in Englewood hours earlier.
The mayhem marked the second time since late May that the city’s upscale shopping district has been targeted by looters amid unrest, reigniting the debate over policing as city leaders continued to point fingers and downtown again was shut down overnight heading to Tuesday. (source)
The response sounds positively medieval – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot locked down the city by raising drawbridges to prevent looters from accessing the area. The move has been deeply criticized.
Over the last week, for the second time in three months, Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered most of the bridges up at night to limit access to the Loop, Gold Coast and surrounding areas after an outbreak of property destruction and unrest.
The move was among a number of measures the mayor announced to protect businesses and reassure residents. But it was the image of the bridges being raised that offered the clearest symbol of Chicago’s divisions.
In a time of crisis, in one of the most racially and economically segregated places in the country, the bridges connecting north and south and linking east and west — sides of town that serve as proxies for wealth versus disinvestment — were made uncrossable, like drawbridges over a castle moat.
Longtime Chicagoans say they can’t remember any other time the bridges were raised in the name of crime prevention or public safety. “You’re basically saying you’re protecting one part of the city from another part,” veteran political strategist Delmarie Cobb said. (source)
The most enlightening thing about the loot-fest in Chicago, however, is the justification. According to a Black Lives Matter activist and organizer, Ariel Atkins, it was just “reparations.” Atkins believes that anything the looters wish to damage or steal is owed to them. She made the radical statement at a solidarity rally in front of a Chicago police station, where people were gathered to support those who had been arrested.
“I don’t care if somebody decides to loot a Gucci’s or a Macy’s or a Nike because that makes sure that that person eats. That makes sure that that person has clothes,” Ariel Atkins said at a rally outside the South Loop police station Monday, local outlets reported.
“That’s a reparation,” Atkins said. “Anything they want to take, take it because these businesses have insurance.” (source)
At a time when more people than ever in the United States were willing to get on board and protest police brutality and racial violence, entitled statements like the one made by Atkins have served to return us to a place of absolute division.
New York, New York
New York City has been labeled a “warzone” as violence escalates rapidly. The violence in the Big Apple isn’t directly tied to protests or riots, but instead, appears to be a deadly new way of life.
This brings NYC to more than 1,000 total shooting incidents across the city year to date, already double all of last year, and the summer is not even over — a summer which ironically has witnessed a supposed heightened consciousness and awareness of police shootings of black Americans given the ongoing George Floyd and Black Lives Matters protests.
But in the case of New York City’s explosion of gun violence, people are being killed with the police far away from the scene, though in one instance over a week ago, it was a black police officer shot in Queens while looking for a parking spot merely a mile from his home.
And this weekend, according to local PIX11 News:
Citywide, there were at least 25 shootings that injured 31 people on Friday and Saturday, police said. Officers responded to 16 shootings on Saturday and nine on Sunday.
At least three of those shootings happened within just blocks of each other in Coney Island, according to police.
Among these, there were seven deaths between Friday and Sunday morning, according the NYPD, including a 25-year-old mother of three children.
Priscilla Vasquez was described in local reports as shot in the back of the head by an unknown gunman in the early morning hours of Saturday while standing on a sidewalk in front of a public school, just around the corner from her Bronx home.
Underscoring the senseless and often random nature of much of the violence, her friends and family don’t think she was the intended targeted, also given the gunman appeared to fire wildly and haphazardly. (source)
Police released the following footage of a shooting in Brooklyn.
And it isn’t just shootings and assaults. So many windows have been smashed on NYC subways that the MTA can’t keep up with replacing the glass.
Things aren’t calming down.
If you aren’t already prepared for civil unrest in your own backyard, it’s high time you began to do so. To learn more about surviving riots and civil unrest, check out Selco’s course.
It is not an exaggeration to say that any act of violence by police officers, whether justified or not, is the potential spark for an explosion of unrest. While I certainly agree that the police should be held to very high standards of behavior, it’s unfortunate now that the first thought of most people isn’t, “Why did this shooting occur?” It’s now, “Oh, crap, how close am I to this looming riot?”
I don’t foresee this situation calming down any time soon. In fact, as we draw closer to the election, I expect we’re going to see this type of violence and wholesale destruction reaching smaller and smaller population zones. There have been many rumors about protesters being bussed to smaller towns. It begs the question, are they just testing the waters to see what kind of response will occur when they’re out of urban population centers?
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