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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

On the efficacy of riots

During the most intense part of the civil rights era, a friend of mine became known as a devoted follower of the 
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., through his work in peaceful protests.  I became acquainted with him when we were on the same train during our induction into military service, although we never served in the same units.  When we were released from active duty, we frequently ran across each other and  chatted about our service experiences.  Mine involved integration matters, and my friend, an African American, was interested in how the process went where I served in Germany.  As the civil rights movement intensified, my friend emerged as a leader and we often crossed paths at events promoting equality and justice. When I was teaching at a college in our community, he was often on the campus working with students.

At the time, there was much violence as protestors moved from civil rights protests to Viet Nam War protests.  President Lyndon Johnson decided not to run for election because of the turmoil taking place in the streets, some of it outside the fences that surround the White House.  College students were restless and volatile, and disruptions on campuses were frequent.  My friend worked closely with college staff and student leaders to keep the protests non-violent.  

One spring day after a meeting with faculty and students about some resistance programs, my friend and I went to the union for some iced tea.  He was troubled, and brought up  a problem that had bothered him.  He studied the history of nonviolence in making social changes in the U.S., and he found a contradiction.  He said he noted that most of the major political changes came after periods of violent turmoil.  He'd noticed that nonviolent demonstrations were largely dismissed in the public mind unless there was some violence taking place somewhere to show what peaceable demonstrations were trying to avoid.   He said he had a dedicated belief in nonviolence and was committed to solving problems peaceably, but had doubts that his advocacy for peace was presenting the truth.  He noted that when the groups he worked with had productive negotiations with some official agency, they always occurred when there was violence in the news.   Citizens tended to ignore protests unless they posed some danger.

My friend said he and advocates for nonviolence talked about advancing the causes of freedom, equality, and justice through peaceful means while taking credit for what is achieved by people using more forceful methods.  His doubts began when he visited an ex-Army buddy in Los Angeles who experienced the riots in Watts over police brutality and the general discrimination against African Americans. His army friend told him the destruction to the city seemed devastating but produced the first serious attempts to address the concerns of the residents of the inner city.  No one paid attention until the city was threatened with destruction.  Nobody took the grievances seriously until people started burning things down.  

In our time, there is evidence which supports that observation.  After the massive demonstrations by the Occupy movements and the women's pink hat and anti-Trump marches, nothing seems to have resulted.  In the Dakotas, the pipeline protests have resulted in lawsuits and state officials and legislatures cobbling together laws against riots that clearly infringe upon free speech.  If there is one thing the corporate establishment and its lackeys fear, it is a citizenry in revolt.  So they create laws designed to keep the constituents in a submissive and ineffectual state.  In so doing, they make a convincing case to the public that if you want to be effectively heard, you have to put on one hell of a riot.

One law passed in South Dakota this year protects and promotes the interests of pipeline companies, SB-190.  The law clearly declares that it conceives the  purpose of the state to serve corporations rather than its citizens.  The law is entitled "An Act to promote pipeline construction and fiscal responsibility by establishing a fund, to authorize a special fee for extraordinary expenses, to make a continuous appropriation therefor, and to declare an emergency."    It does raise some question about whether it reconciles with the State Constitution:

§ 3.   Laws for benefit of corporation as conditioned on compliance with Constitutional provision. The Legislature shall not remit the forfeiture of the charter of any corporation now existing nor alter or amend the same nor pass any other general or special law for the benefit of such corporation, except upon the condition that such corporation shall thereafter hold its charter subject to the provisions of this Constitution.
The state has never let laws or any code of integrity interfere with its suppliance to corporations.

To discourage any resistance to its obsequious sucking of corporations, the GOP regime has passed SB-189, which addresses riot boosting.  It provides criminal charges for anyone who:
(1)    Participates in any riot and directs, advises, encourages, or solicits any other person participating in the riot to acts of force or violence;   
(2)    Does not personally participate in any riot but directs, advises, encourages, or solicits other persons participating in the riot to acts of force or violence;
We do live in an age in which a large segment of the population can't grasp irony.  A law which tries to intimidate people from making any vigorous statement of their grievances is a sign to many that government is so corrupt that any submission to its dictates is a collaboration with evil. The rioters in Watts thought that the destruction of their community was better than living with the evil in it, and the destruction was necessary to rid it of the evil.  Rather than live in obedience to a malignant authority, it was better to start over from scratch, if necessary.  For those whose lands were criminally taken from them and are now threatened with leaking pipelines, the collaboration with corruption is guaranteed destruction.  Why not burn down the infestation so that future generations can launch their own quest for freedom, equality, and justice?  Those laws passed for the pipeline companies were declarations of oppression, and statements of what their collaborators fear most.  The irony is that the laws make clear their malign intention in that the only registration of grievances permitted is what the authorities so blithely ignore.  

I am not advocating riots.  However, I cannot but note that the laws tell would be rioters that they have nothing to lose but oppression and the further degradation of their lands.

Remember Wounded Knee II.  

1 comment:

larry kurtz said...

Noem's law has no teeth in the tribal nations trapped in South Dakota but she and her donors will stop at nothing to erase Barack Obama's legacy including accelerating the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a warming climate and an eventual American Indian rebellion to protect treaty lands.

Running a bomb train through white towns won't fly when you can build a leaky pipeline through stolen treaty ground so it's hard to imagine these projects going through cemeteries where people of European descent are buried.

Genesee & Wyoming, the parent company of the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad, conducts the business on the west end of the state-owned track and operates on the right of way that intersects the proposed Keystone XL pipeline at Philip. Rail cars carrying diluted bitumen could be loaded there then be transported through Pierre, Huron and maybe Brookings then south through Sioux Falls to the depot at Cushing, Oklahoma; but, the same geology that thwarts railroads and forces engineers to rebuild I-90 between Reliance and Rapid City and I-94 between Mandan, North Dakota and Billings, Montana every year also makes construction of the Keystone XL pipeline untenable.

Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska says support for TransCanada's day in court is facing its final argument and that the pipeline will never be built.

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