Rioting is not solely about violence and destruction, it’s about sending a message and being heard
I’ve had just about enough of hearing the words “thugs” and “Vandals” to describe people who engage in the act of rioting, particularly those who partook in the recent riots in Baltimore. Those words were used by the Mayor of Baltimore, the Governor of Maryland, the President of the United States and the entire roster at Fox News.
Most people, regardless of political ideology will argue that violence and destruction of property is never justified. I vehemently disagree. Now, I’m not talking about a nonsensical sports riot where people go nuts after winning a championship, I mean what we do as a society when we feel we have nothing left to lose.
Every human being has limits, there is only so much we can take before we snap and need to lash out. That’s how common fights get started. That limit is different for everyone and so is the method in which we lash out, that is until the limit is multiplied as we find ourselves in a group of people who are equally pissed off at some form of authority or oppression.
Riots usually consist of two things. First, rioters generally loot stores and businesses, many of whom do not give back to the community they profit off of. In some cases they even do more harm than good to the surrounding neighborhood. Riots rarely result in the burning or looting of actual homes.
Second, and at least justifiable in recent cases, the focal point of a rioter’s aggression is commonly the police. The very symbol of oppression they are rebelling against. Whether the police represent (and protect) a corrupt government infrastructure that keeps the people in poverty or they fatally brutalize the same poverty stricken population, the need to speak back with a rock can eventually be warranted.
Let’s not forget that more often than not, law enforcement are the ones that initiate the violence or at least egg the protesters on into starting something. As an example, Tuesday night in Baltimore, the first night of the curfew, police were lined up side by side and were hitting there shields repeatedly with their batons as if they were getting revved up for war. Everything was peaceful up to that point.
You may have a seen a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King that New Jersey senator Cory Booker shared on twitter the other day. King said “A riot is the language of the unheard.” He was absolutely right, peaceful man that he was. I would add that it is most often a desperate action of last resort.
Rioting is an extreme form of rebellion, just short of an armed revolution. But just like revolutions, disturbances such as the ones that took place in Baltimore and Ferguson have their purpose. As King suggested, without them the media would never have bothered to turn their coverage onto the issue of racism, police brutality or the socio-economic problems African Americans are fed up with.
After all, what is the alternative to rioting? After all the peaceful protests, demonstrations and various other forms of political activism and involvement, what else can you do if these actions fail to bring about change? Self-immolation? Worked in Tunisia I guess, but I think dying needlessly at the hands of the cops is already more death than we can handle. Still, I think things are going to get even worse before they get better.
Rest in peace Freddie Gray
“The only reason [the word ‘thug’] bothers me is because it seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays,” – Richard Sherman