The Fine Line Between Protest and Riot

Hillary Clinton's two biggest challengers were ambushed at a progressive political convention over the weekend.

protest-netroots-nation

Hillary Clinton’s two biggest challengers were ambushed at a progressive political convention over the weekend.

David Dayen writes in The New Republic that “Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley Failed Their #BlackLivesMatter Test.”

At the Presidential Town Hall this weekend at Netroots Nation 2015, the largest annual gathering of liberal activists in America, there was a moment of two parallel universes operating simultaneously, signifying the cleavages between racial and economic justice on the progressive left. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was moving through his main points about economic inequality and the hijacking of the nation by big money, pointing out statistical analyses on things like student debt and the gains of the one percent. (This came after former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, the other candidate at the event, had already left the stage). At the same time, on the floor among the crowd, #BlackLivesMatter protesters marched and chanted, “Say her name.” The names of the black women who have died in police custody were never mentioned from the stage.

[…]

Movement-based politics helped light the fire for the demonstration at the Presidential town hall, which was specifically designed to confront the powerful and leave them no escape route. “That was my idea was to have them respond in real time,” said Ashley Yeats, a St. Louis-based #BlackLivesMatter organizer who helped plan the protest with the Dream Defenders and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). “Because too often we do actions, and people get time to go back and sit for a minute. I was, like, ‘No, let’s have our debate. What would a black debate look like?'”

The planned protest began midway through O’Malley’s remarks, the first of the two candidates to speak. Protesters stormed toward the stage and shouted out the names of Sandra Bland and other black women who have died in police custody, imploring the candidates to address them. Tia Oso, an Arizona-based activist with BAJI, was given a mic and hopped on stage next to O’Malley and town hall moderator Jose Antonio Vargas. In her remarks, she expressed her frustration with structural racism and white supremacy. The other protesters did various call-and-response chants from the floor. “Wait a second, breathe!” Vargas pleaded. “We can’t breathe!” replied the protesters, echoing the last words of Eric Garner, the 43-year-old Staten Island man killed by a police chokehold one year ago Friday.

The first question that comes to my mind is Where the hell was the security? You’ve got a sitting United States Senator and a former state governor getting stormed on stage and nobody taking control? Thankfully, these people just wanted to hijack the agenda and get their message out. But what would have stopped them from injuring Sanders and O’Malley had that been their intent?

Second, as regular readers know, I’m continually frustrated by the likes of Code Pink taking over events in DC. Hundreds of people take time out of their busy day to hear the invited guests, not a bunch of yahoos who, seemingly by definition, couldn’t otherwise attract an audience. But that ilk is merely rude; they’re not storming the dais and getting close enough to harm the speakers.

Third, while I suppose this puts the candidates on the spot and highlights the protesters’ agenda, it’s neither an effective means of holding a conversation nor a particularly useful indicator of qualifications for the presidency. Few people give nuanced responses when ambushed like this. And, even as good on their feet as some recent presidents have been, the job is deliberative. Most if not all decisions are made after consultations with staffs, if not the entire interagency process.

Most of the liberal commentariat, perhaps not shockingly, disagrees with me. Writing at The Nation, Joe Dinkin believes that Bernie Sanders, in particular, “blew a huge opportunity . . . to convince voters of color that he cares deeply about racial justice.” Similarly, FireDogLake’s Kevin Gosztola argues that the protest was necessary to get the issue on the agenda and concurs that Sanders and O’Malley stumbled in their moment. Both, however, note that a sizable portion of the audience seemed to agree with my assessment that “the organizers being disrespectful, obnoxious, and impolite.”

All that said, it’s somewhat remarkable that #BlackLivesMatter is having so much trouble getting candidates to respond to an issue that has been very much at the top of the news for months. Given the power of African American voters among the Democratic nominating electorate, in particular, one would think the candidates would be falling all over themselves to talk about Eric Garner and Sandra Bland. There’s hard to see much downside.

Less surprising, but still a shame, is how little the candidates for the Republican nomination are talking about the issue. The party leadership has spent the better part of the last two decades bemoaning their poor showing among black voters, typically drawing less than ten percent of that demographic in major elections. Not only would taking the most egregious of these cases seriously help chip away at that problem but reforming policing, decriminalizing trivial nonviolent offenses, and related issues would be very attractive with swing voters as well.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tom Strong says:

    All that said, it’s somewhat remarkable that #BlackLivesMatter is having so much trouble getting candidates to respond to an issue that has been very much at the top of the news for months.

    This is an utterly bizarre reading. In a matter of mere months, #BlackLivesMatter has persuaded the sitting president and the overwhemingly likely Democratic candidate to weigh in on this issue in very sympathetic terms. Their tactics at Netroot Nation – which while disruptive were far from a “riot” – clearly scared the bejeezus out of every power player in the party, including Hillary Clinton. Moreover, it is their organizing that has gotten this issue the weighty media coverage it’s received in the first place.

    However you may feel about their strategy, it has been incredibly effective.

  2. M. Bouffant says:

    being disrespectful, obnoxious, and impolite

    Oh, the horror!! A million times worse than being shot in cold blood by the police. How unspeakably “uppity” of those almost-rioting people!! They’ve always been treated w/ so much respect themselves, you know.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Tom Strong:

    Their tactics at Netroot Nation – which while disruptive were far from a “riot” – clearly scared the bejeezus out of every power player in the party, including Hillary Clinton.

    This was on the “protest” side of the line; some come much closer to crossing it. But once you hop on the stage and seize the microphone, the only thing stopping it from being a riot is your own forebearance. My point is that the conference organizers failed miserably at their basic job.

    @M. Bouffant:

    Oh, the horror!! A million times worse than being shot in cold blood by the police. How unspeakably “uppity” of those almost-rioting people!!

    This is a complete non sequitur. The police acted horribly in almost all of the publicized incidents and there are far more horrible incidents that don’t get publicity. That has nothing to do with whether Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have a right not to have the stage stormed when they speak or whether those who paid to attend the event have a right to hear the speakers on the program rather than a mob.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    So was that “James P.”, the fake PhD, that shot up the movie theater in Louisiana?
    Extreme far right tea bag nut job? The description fits….

  5. Tyrell says:

    Ridiculous. This was a complete disregard and violation of the rights of the speakers and the audience. Sanders owes these disrupters nothing. O’Malley made a big mistake by backing down and apologizing. It made him look weak. And what did he say: “all lives matter”
    The Democrats need to distance themselves from these radical extremists who are trying to push the party further to the left. These extremists should be prohibited completely from any assemblies.
    In 1972 the Democrats were infiltrated and taken over by radical Marxist insurrectionists. The campaign of Senator George McGovern was sabotaged and he lost badly. There is a lesson for the Democratic leadership today that they can ill afford to ignore.
    The photo of these out of control people on the stage says it all – disgusting.

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    Second, as regular readers know, I’m continually frustrated by the likes of Code Pink taking over events in DC. Hundreds of people take time out of their busy day to hear the invited guests, not a bunch of yahoos who, seemingly by definition, couldn’t otherwise attract an audience.

    Wow, how terrible it must be for those invited guests to be silenced, to feel like they can’t make their voices heard, to experience that level of frustration and powerlessne…oh.

  7. JohnMcC says:

    I have been pointing out to my fellow lefties for decades that the disruption of a party’s activities will inevitably lead to the development of security squads by that party. That’s how blackshirts and such get started. Democracy requires decorum and patience.

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    But once you hop on the stage and seize the microphone, the only thing stopping it from being a riot is your own forebearance.

    That’s a pretty asinine and stupid thing to write. The only thing stopping it from being a riot was that no one there had any intention of rioting.

    I mean, seriously, would you write that the only thing stopping a, say, Jeb! Bush campaign rally from turning into a riot is Jeb! Bush’s own forbearance?

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    That’s a pretty asinine and stupid thing to write. The only thing stopping it from being a riot was that no one there had any intention of rioting.

    Again, my point in this specific case is about security, not the intentions of the protestors. Whether it’s sports hooligans running onto the field or protestors jumping on the stage and grabbing the microphone, there’s no way of knowing whether they have violent intent until it’s too late. Event organizers simply can’t allow these things to happen.

    In a more general sense, while I think this particular demonstration on the “protest” side of the line, it’s much closer to the “riot” side of the line than picketing outside the event or even the Code Pink standing up and disrupting the event from the audience gambit. It’s simply outrageous conduct even if there’s no intent beyond getting one’s voice heard.

    Nor do I get whatever snide point you’re attempting to make in the previous comment. The audience of a Netroots or a DC think tank conference or, well, whatever isn’t there to speak but to listen. They have a right to hear the event they came to see, not the event hooligans decide to stage by hijacking someone else’s venue and audience.

  10. DrDaveT says:

    Most of the liberal commentariat, perhaps not shockingly, disagrees with me. Writing at The Nation, Joe Dinkin believes that Bernie Sanders, in particular, “blew a huge opportunity . . . to convince voters of color that he cares deeply about racial justice.”

    I don’t see how that statement is in any way inconsistent with anything you wrote, James. It’s possible to believe both that this is a poor mechanism for generating nuanced (or any) discourse, AND that Bernie Sanders blew a big opportunity to win a lot of new fans.

  11. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    So was that “James P.”, the fake PhD, that shot up the movie theater in Louisiana?

    Not funny

  12. T says:

    I’m continually frustrated by the likes of Code Pink taking over events in DC.

    I felt the same way about “rolling thunder” when I lived there.

  13. mantis says:

    I don’t see how that statement is in any way inconsistent with anything you wrote, James. It’s possible to believe both that this is a poor mechanism for generating nuanced (or any) discourse, AND that Bernie Sanders blew a big opportunity to win a lot of new fans.

    Right? One can find the protesters tactics disruptive, inappropriate and, in this case, kinda dangerous, and still recognize that such incidents provide a opportunities the candidates.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    I’m with @DrDaveT: Sanders did not handle it well. And it’s not the thing to do.

    You know what Bill Clinton would have done? He’d have invited some protesters up, asked one of them to borrow their sign, and then held it up for the cameras. He’d have owned it. Alas, very few people practice politics at that level. More’s the pity.

    As a tactic it is pointless. They are “drawing attention” to some of the most covered incidents in recent memory. And they have no actionable agenda. What do the protesters want to do, aside from self-expression? What’s the plan? What’s the legislation? This is a hashtag movement disconnected from the institutions that might effect a change – if anyone knew what change was being demanded.

    We have just witnessed a marvel for the ages: a despised minority, just 3% of the population, has with astonishing speed, managed to pass gay marriage throughout most of the developed world. How? Art, honesty, specificity and open arms. Art – Hollywood’s mostly, with shows like Will and Grace, helped de-demonize gays. Honesty – gay men and women taking the hit by coming out, proving that some of the people we already like or love are gay. Specificity – gay marriage. Open arms – the movement welcomed ‘outsiders,’ straight people who either were or could become, allies.

    This, by contrast, is some left over 60’s bullsh!t of the kind that accomplished absolute fukc-all for the anti-Vietnam war movement. And taken to its apotheosis in 1968, managed to put Richard Nixon in the White House because Hubert Humphrey – HHH, who had practically all alone stood up for Civil Rights in the Democratic Party a full 20 years earlier – was insufficiently pure. Nixon led directly to Reagan and the solidification of the racist-Republican coalition, and we are where we are today.

    The messaging is utterly self-defeating. We are about a hair away from taking the third presidential term in a row and electing the first woman president. Stuff like this sends a message to the broader voter base not that black lives matter, but that Democrats = Disorder. If elements of the Democratic coalition start attacking their own friends, the reasoning will be that the protesters are unreasonable, an irritation rather than a force to be reckoned with.

    If black lives matter and everyone says, “Yes, they do,” then what? How does that change life as lived? How does that change police training? How does that govern police-civilian ‘rules of engagement?’ Yelling, “we’re victims!” is not enough, you need actionable items. You need calls to action, not just calls to re-Tweet.

    After 1968 we stayed in Vietnam for seven more years after antiwar protesters went after the Democratic Convention in Chicago 1968. Seven more years, tens of thousands more dead. Humphrey was obviously by that point, clearly, turning on the war. He had to keep it sotto voce or lose LBJ, but I was alive at the time, and we all thought HHH would get us out, starting the day he took office. We could have been out by 1970, rather than 1975.

    I have no patience for people who are right but stupid. We’ve just seen what right-and-smart can do. Why don’t we try that?

  15. Grewgills says:

    I don’t get how the title of the post has anything to do with the post. The actions taken don’t in any way approach the line between protest and riot unless you dilute the meaning of riot to the point of meaninglessness.

    Sanders and O’Malley were rather tone deaf and so missed a big opportunity. Their responses indicated a fundamental misunderstanding of what is meant by black lives matter. They absolutely should have understood by that point what is meant. Despite how many, particularly on the right, like to characterize it #blacklivesmatter is not exclusionary. It doesn’t mean that black lives and only black lives matter. It is a given in our society that white lives matter. It should be obvious to anyone that has been paying even cursory attention that what is meant is that black lives should matter as much as white lives or more concisely black lives matter too. That neither Sanders or O’Malley seemed to get that makes them look bad. It was a big opportunity missed for both of them and the ”all lives matter” retort was a big foot in mouth moment.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Democracy requires decorum and patience.

    Oh bullsh1t. 150 years and counting. How much longer should they wait?

  17. stonetools says:

    First of all, the people involved in # BlackLives Matter have put their bodies on the line facing police tanks and tear gas in a way as exemplary as those that desegregated the lunch counters and marched with MLK at Selma. There is courage and enthusiasm there, and their cause is righteous. But that’s not enough to win the war they’re fighting. More is needed, and Oliver Willis sets it out here:

    So in today’s system, simply protesting against politicians without asking them for something will not work. It didn’t work with Occupy Wall Street and it won’t work here.

    The other issue is that people appear to think solutions come from politicians. In an ideal world, sure, our politicians would sit in a room with each other, put their thinking caps on and come up with a solution, then they enlist the support of others to make it happen.

    In the real world, politicians do what outside forces tell them to. Democrats both under President Clinton and President Obama didn’t magically come up with the idea to do health insurance reform on their own. There has been longstanding pressure on Democratic politicians, for decades, to reform the system. When Democrats introduced and voted on the Affordable Care Act, it was the culmination of a pressure campaign.

    For them to act, we can’t lambast – for instance – Bernie Sanders for not magically coming up with a plan to appease #BlackLivesMatter.

    What instead has to be done is to present politicians with a slate of ideas/policies/laws — concrete ideas, not pie in the sky unicorn talk about “ending white supremacy,” etc. — and then hold their feet to the fire if they choose not to support the slate.

    He goes on to lay out next steps for Black Lives Matter. He gets it right every word, IMO.
    To use the hoary adage, amateurs talk tactics and professionals talk logistics. The Black Lives Movement is stuck on a particular tactic-protest. What they need to do is to talk to some lawyers, lobbyists, and legislators and craft a legislative package aimed at dealing with police brutality- a Civilian Rights Act. They can then use protest and other pressure tactics to push for that. Unless they move to that next level, they’re going to fizzle out.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    Whether it’s sports hooligans running onto the field or protestors jumping on the stage and grabbing the microphone, there’s no way of knowing whether they have violent intent until it’s too late.

    Well, to mix news events, are they armed middle aged white men? No? Than I think it’s safe.

  19. de stijl says:

    @Grewgills:

    I don’t get how the title of the post has anything to do with the post. The actions taken don’t in any way approach the line between protest and riot unless you dilute the meaning of riot to the point of meaninglessness.

    White people protest, black people riot.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds:

    What do the protesters want…

    Oh I don’t know, maybe for the police to be subject to the same laws as every one else?

  21. James Joyner says:

    @T: I find Rolling Thunder a minor annoyance but in a different category. It’s more akin to a march—albeit one whose point has long been lost. They’re sort of disrupting traffic but as a byproduct rather than as a central tactic.

    @DrDaveT: @michael reynolds: Agreed all around. Bill Clinton would have done well with this and, given how long the issue has been simmering, so would a circa 2008 Barack Obama. But most politicians don’t have the skillset to handle something like this artfully. It’s more a talent that standup comics, used to dealing with hecklers, develop.

    I also agree with @stonetools that the end game here isn’t obvious. Neither Bernie Sanders nor Martin O’Malley think black lives don’t matter. Why make them the enemy in a cheap stunt?

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Look, here’s the deal: Every one, every single frickin’ citizen of the United States of America has, according to the 1st Amendment, the RIGHT to petition their government:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    Now James, and many others, would prefer that our…. lesser citizens… would do the same as their …. more well endowed fellows do…. and hire some high priced lobbyists to “petition the government” for them in more “private settings” so that they are not personally troubled with the problems of the…. Lower classes….. Especially when it intrudes upon the really important discussions of the day, like lower taxes or crop price supports or defense spending or Benghazi….. “I mean, of COURSE Blacklivesmatter, I clicked thumbs up on such a post just last week! What ELSE do you want??”

    Really…. Do you even hear the words that are coming out of your mouths?

  23. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: You realize that the Netroots Nation convention isn’t the government and that storming the stage isn’t a petition, right? If these people had tried to do this at a speech being given by President Obama—who actually is the head of a branch of our national government—they’d have at best been tackled before getting to the stage and at worst killed.

    There’s nothing stopping these people from petitioning the government. Or protesting outside the convention. Or starting their own convention. But having a political grievance—which I share and have written about multiple times long before the latest string of incidents—doesn’t give you the right to storm the stage at an event and take it over.

    And, again, we’re really lucky these were just people wanting to shout into a microphone. Had they been people wanting to make a name for themselves killing one of the candidates, they could well have done so given the level of security here.

  24. MBunge says:

    I don’t mind protest or being disruptive, in theory. Making a spectacle can sometimes be both appropriate and useful.

    But protest is a tactic, to be used when and how it can be effective in achieving a goal. This particular BLM action seems far more emotive than tactical.

    Mike

  25. dmichaelwells says:

    @michael reynolds: Do you really want to rehash the 60’s and apply what you claim to today’s politics? History confirms that Nixon with the duplicitous aid of Henry (“I am not a war criminal”) Kissinger purposely sabotaged the Paris negotiations that under Johnson had an agreement to end the war but for the South Vietnamese government’s refusal to go along (after hearing from Nixon’s secret emissary, Chenault that they would get a better deal from Nixon). Johnson decided NOT to run for another term because of his showing in New Hampshire and THEN supported Humphrey in March of 1968. Humphrey had nothing to fear from Johnson whose approval ratings were dismal. He made no clear stand against the war until late.
    The seven additional years and deaths were the direct result of Nixon and his criminal gang, not the anti-war protesters. After working (in my limited way) to end this war, I voted for Humphrey.

  26. ernieyeball says:

    @Tyrell:..In 1972 the Democrats were infiltrated and taken over by radical Marxist insurrectionists. The campaign of Senator George McGovern was sabotaged and he lost badly.

    This is an incredible revision of history!

    “I am 1,000 percent for Tom Eagleton and I have no intention of dropping him from the ticket.”
    ―George McGovern
    July 1972

    Was the defining moment of McGovern’s campaign.
    I doubt the Marxists could have cooked up such a plot.

  27. grumpy realist says:

    What these protesters have shown is a total ignorance of how to interact effectively with politicians. Yeah, these sorts of stunts get a TV camera on you AND the reputation of being a bunch of whiny idiots left over from the 1960s.

    What do they want? Do they want Bernie to come out and talk about over-militarized policing and what to do with it? Then put a position paper together. What needs to be fixed? How to do it? What laws need to be passed (or, as talked about on the other thread, taking these sorts of cases away from the local prosecutors who may be too comfy with the local boys in blue and get someone with teeth behind them instead)? Get experts to put their comments in as well.

    And lobby, lobby, lobby, because that’s what you’re doing. Professionally. Because that’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere. When was the last lobbyist listened to who pitched a tantrum in a meeting with a politician?

    As it is, these guys have come off like clueless student radicals.

  28. stonetools says:

    James and Michael strike me as the grizzled oldsters who are yelling at those rowdy kids. Guys, these folks are young ,they’re idealistic,they’re not thinking that far ahead, and the whole world is watching. Sure they are amateurs, and I am exasperated with them. But they’ve got the right of it. They’ve just got to grow up a little.
    Michael, weren’t you young once? When you had hair on your head, were you thinking three steps ahead? James-Ok, as a conservative, maybe you were never young….
    These guys are protesting, because they have been raised on the idea that protesting achieves things. DeRay Mckesson, the leader of the movement, really does believe that protesting is an end in itself. Hopefully, he’ll grow out of that, but in meantime, the #BLM has the constitutional right to do just what they did.

  29. Tyrell says:

    “Fine line between protest and riots” : I think there is a third topic here and it is appropriate, respectful behavior. In this case a group of people chose to disrupt a peaceful assembly, and interfered with the rights of the speakers and the rights of the people to hear their presentation without disruption. What we saw was rude, juvenile, obnoxious behavior: hollaring, chanting, and screaming. Evidently they thought they were at the Trump rally or at the local 5th grade summer cheerleader camp.
    Behavior these days has deteriorated completely. I go to a movie and they have to show a list of rules on how to behave, which half of them promptly ignore. Even graduations have people hollaring and cheering. Air travel: hardly a week goes by that you don’t hear about someone going wild and having to be removed. Look at the clothing on an airline trip: shorts, tank tops, and sandals – like they just got off the beach. People used to dress up when they traveled on airplanes, and trains.
    The news was not easy on the Democrats about this: “Mob Takes Over Democrats Rally”
    “Democrats Losing Control ?” “Democrat O’Malley Apologizes For All Lives Matter Statement!”
    Where was the security ? That’s what I would like to know. I guess they were guarding Hillary and keeping the press from getting to close to her.
    People have the right to demonstrate, fine. But not to disrupt events. Perhaps an open mike, question/ answer could be provided at the end of these events. But if people want to scream and hollar, they can head to a sports events (except golf and tennis), rock concerts, roller coasters,or an empty parking lot somewhere.
    The Democrats better get this train back on the tracks. We can’t have a repeat of 1972.

  30. Grewgills says:

    @Grewgills:
    I’m a bit confused. Are the down votes from people that think it was actually a riot or from people that think #blacklivesmatter means that only black lives matter or from people that think Sanders and O’Malley handled it well?

  31. MBunge says:

    @stonetools: the #BLM has the constitutional right to do just what they did.

    No, they didn’t. They were allowed to do it but the NN folks could also have called security and had them thrown out.

    Mike

  32. ernieyeball says:

    That schmuck Nixon had to put up with this crap all the time! Like when he was handing out public service medals.

    One recipient was nineteen-year-old Debra Jean Sweet, “a church worker from Madison” who’d organized a thirty-mile march by 3,000 Wisconsin high school students to feed poor children. She was being recognized for that, and “for her work in race relations.”
    When Nixon handed her her medal, she said, in a voice scarcely heard by journalists standing near, “‘I find it hard to believe in your sincerity in giveing the awards until you get us out of Vietnam.’ ”
    Mr. Nixon, reported the times, “seemed a bit taken aback.”
    This Thanksgiving season I gave thanks for nineteen-year-old Ms. Sweet.
    East Hill farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg
    by Gorden Ball

    http://www.geopolintelligence.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/GetOutBW1.jpg

  33. michael reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    You know perfectly well what I mean, you’re not @bill. As @stonetools link says more eloquently than I, you need an ‘ask’ and that requires specificity. ‘Make life better’ is not an ‘ask’ it’s a bedtime prayer.

  34. SJ Reidhed says:

    Too bad we can’t have a hashtag #MannersMatter!

  35. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:

    Michael, weren’t you young once? When you had hair on your head, were you thinking three steps ahead?

    Personal life? No. Politically? Yes. I remember distinctly seeing Vietcong and NV flags showing up at anti-war protests and thinking, “that is stupid, that is going to kill us.” At age 15 I attended my first anti-war demonstration (in Des Moines, Iowa of all places) and I would hear these anti-military chants and thinking nope, that’s a mistake, the GIs are our natural allies.

    Like I said, I have no patience with right-but-dumb. You either intend to achieve something, or you’re just masturbating publicly. And in order to achieve something you need to know WTF it is you’re after. If what you’re after is utopia you’re an idiot, need to go home and watch reality TV and leave politics to smarter folks. If, on the other hand, you have an actual goal, a specific, identifiable goal, you have a good start.

    It is amazing to me how few people know how to identify a goal. Not an age thing, just a people thing. Everyone has a bow and arrow and 90% of people have no clue where to aim it. And then they’re unhappy that they didn’t get what they never even identified.

    We have a bunch of things we need to do. Actually do. We are 16 months away from an election that could put a 4 year stop to every single one of those items. So, sorry, but very little tolerance for people screwing up. Screw up after the election.

  36. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Always remember, these kids wouldn’t be doing anything at all if the police weren’t arbitrarily killing black people right and left while our elected representatives do nothing about it. What’s your solution for THAT, Mr. Archer?

  37. Tyrell says:

    @michael reynolds: Good points about Hubert Humphrey. I remember Humphrey as a strong, energetic leader who was admired and respected by people from both parties. Humphrey came to a nearby city in the ’68 campaign. Our high school teacher got a bunch of us together and we went to see Humphrey – there was free barbecue and a huge crowd. I think that if Humphrey would have won in ’68, he would have succeeded in negotiating an agreement with North Vietnam.
    Humphrey was a statesman. We had many back then.
    If we had one more week in that campaign, Humphrey would have won. I kept a large poster and other campaign material that I got at that rally. I wish I still had that stuff. I never heard or saw Humphrey disrespect an opponent.
    There were a lot of problems in the ’60’s, but we had some great leaders. Things went downhill completely in the ’70’s: economy (high unemployment, high interest rates, soaring inflation), Vietnam, “disco”, polyester clothing, gas “crisis”, scandals, rock music, drugs, and urban “decay” among others. A dark age in our history. If Humphrey had won that decade could have turned out different.

  38. Mumbles says:

    @stonetools:

    Exactly. The Dream Defenders made a solid policy proposal after Zimmerman was acquitted. Various groups made solid policy proposals after the Ferguson-area police departments went berserk and attacked the black residents – along with various members of the press. And since then, only the governor of New York has done much of anything. Meanwhile, a white supremacist who murdered nine people in a historically black church gets better treatment than Tamir Rice sitting in a park, or John Crawford standing in a Walmart, among many other examples. But somehow, people are still insisting that black people be “polite”, and kindly wait until we wrap up something more important. Like, you know, the NSA possibly looking at your phone records.

    And this protest was aimed, in large part, at that rather substantial group of white progressives who claim to be “allies” of black people, but invariably insist that black people’s life or death issues should wait. Certainly, Sanders and O’Malley should have been fully prepared to address this topic head on – and by all accounts, O’Malley tried to return to the stage to apologize for not being prepared. But this goes far beyond these two candidates, and addresses a fundamental problem among progressives.

  39. superdestroyer says:

    Why would any Republicans want to go near this issue. As O’Malley and Sanders showed, there is no correct answer except to agree with the most extreme of protesters. Considering that blacks are never going to vote for any Republican and never take a conservative position on any issue, why would any Republican want to address the issue.

    The shouting down of Democratic candidates is a good object lesson on what the one party state will look like in the future. Agree with the activist or suffer.

  40. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The difference in homosexual rights versus racial grievances is that homosexuals marriage does not really take away anything from everyone else. Compare that to reparations, quotas, affirmative action, de-policing which affect everyone else.

  41. superdestroyer says:

    @stonetools:

    Blacks are much more likely to be killed by other blacks than by the police. See the murder rates in cities such as Chicago or Baltimore. And if you look at the police shooting database at the Washington Post, you would see that more whites have been killed by law enforcement than blacks.

    So the point is that blacks do not understand relative risks and everyone else is just suppose to stay quiet?

  42. MBunge says:

    @Mumbles: black people be “polite”

    And that’s what I mean by emotive instead of tactical. Self-righteous lecturing feels good but is usually counterproductive.

    Mike

  43. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:

    1) At the federal level push for a law giving the FBI explicit oversight in all cases of police-involved killings. Nothing will so clench the buttocks of police chiefs across the country as the realization that if one of their hotshot officers shoots a civilian the FBI has immediate jurisdiction.

    2) At your state level create a model citizen’s rights bill detailing what police may and may not require of suspects. There is nothing but confusion here. Citizens need to know what is and what is not okay. So do police.

    3) If you want a pure, public pressure point, go after Hollywood. Hollywood has relentlessly pushed the image of the tough guy cop who bends the rules. Cop torture porn is all over TV and movies. Push for a more balanced perspective. Let’s see if we can’t get some of these hacks to kick their work up a level.

  44. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    IF one looks through the Washington Post database of police shootings, one quickly notices the number of shootings that occur during domestic violence calls. If every shooting becomes a federal case, the first thing local law enforcement can do is be very deliberate in answering any domestic violence calls. Why not ask the person making the call to just come down to the police station to fill out a complaint rather than response with an officer.

    Also, if you want to make every police shooting a federal criminal case, then how are the rights of local law enforcement suppose to be respected. I think you want law enforcemtn to fill out police reports and answer questions rather than immediately demanding a lawyer and refusing to say anything?

  45. michael reynolds says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Shhhh, I’m talking to the grown-ups.

  46. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m definitely on board with #1 and #3 and quite possibly #2 (it’d need to be more fleshed out for me to have a strong opinion).

    Even the non-Dirty Harry cops, such as NCIS’ Jethro Gibbs, routinely flout the Constitution in order to do what they think is right. Ditto the Jack Baeur CIA types. Not to mention things like Tarentino’s “Inglorious Basterds,” which is about a group of “hero” war criminals going after the Nazis through any means necessary. Obviously, the First Amendment allows all of that and government shouldn’t interfere. But nudging the studios in the direction of showing the negative consequences of violating our fundamental national values would be helpful.

  47. stonetools says:

    I think one thing we should understand is that the civil rights movement that won big victories in the 1960s goes back decades before then. What you are seeing with the #BLM movement are the mistakes of youth. I’m sure these youngsters think that if they protest long enough and loudly enough, a solution which magically appear that everyone will unite around. That’s bullsh!t, but that’s what young people believe. And not just young people ( remember when Barack Obama-and lots of US media- were sure that Republicans would just naturally fall in line behind “reasonable bipartisan compromise” proposals in 2009?).
    The problem of anti-black police shootings is frankly difficult to solve, as it involves thousands of local police departments across the entire United States-and that even leaves out the certainty that any proposed solution will be monolithically opposed by a Republican Party with a largely racist base.
    I’m hoping that older heads in the civil rights movement and the Obama Administration are trying to put together some sort of legislative package. But it won’t be easy or quick. In the meantime, the #BLM movement performs a service by keeping the issue of police killings in the headlines.

  48. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    All this sounds good. I’ll add that one thing conservatives have is that they have an organization -ALEC- whose sole purpose is to churn out out conservative legislation, at both the state and federal level. That’s what I mean about logistics. The conservatives have infrastructure for pressuring government that liberals don’t have.
    It would be great if there was a liberal institution that would just create a federal and model state bill aimed at the problem of police killings, but I don’t know any liberal organization dedicated to doing that.

  49. Mumbles says:

    @MBunge:

    Three major problems:

    First, this is simply “tone-policing”. And the simple fact is, polite requests were met with indifference, and no policy changes. The Netroots disruptions, on the other hand, got the attention of all of the top 3 democratic candidates.

    Second, we really aren’t even in primary season yet – the majority of Americans aren’t paying attention now, and will never even think about this. This is the right time to hold the democrats’ feet to the fire.

    Third, this is only partially about police shootings, beatings, and chokings. Black Lives Matter was begun as a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, in a case where his defense centered on the old “black brute” stereotype. So, yes, it is in part about angering others, in the hopes that they’ll do some self-examination. Certainly, such people can’t do significantly worse than what they’re doing now.

  50. anjin-san says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If you want a pure, public pressure point, go after Hollywood.

    The BBCs Inspector George Gently deals with “crossing the line” issues in an intelligent and entertaining manner. Highly recommended.

    The excellent Worricker Trilogy features a protagonist who is disdainful of guns and the use of violence as a quick solution to complex problems.

  51. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    Hollywood’s role in this is huge. Sergeant Joe Friday was the last TV cop to actually follow the rules.

    I don’t think there’s any sort of ideological position behind Hollywood’s love of revenge and torture and “rule breaking,” it’s just pandering and laziness. But the effect has been to lower the bar all the way down to the basement on police behavior.

    As we outgrow the old networks we’re seeing less formulaic TV, thankfully, though movies are essentially hopeless. Marvel’s had 12 big hits in a row and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Iron Man read anyone their rights. We’ve got law enforcement by torture, law enforcement by direct action with no thought for consequences, law enforcement with magical non-existent science, but only in the UK do we see law enforcement by the actual enforcement of laws, including the ones governing police.

    Hollywood has a share of the blame for out-of-control cops.

  52. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, I’ve written a LOT of violent, action-driven stuff for teens and pre-teens. I’ve had zero problem writing about the moral dimensions, the ethical questions, the after-effects, etc… It’s not hard. I don’t believe it would be difficult to do the same in cop dramas – at least in terms of the writing. Whether you can get adult audiences to absorb the level of nuance I put in books intended for 14 year-olds, is another matter.

  53. Tyrell says:

    @superdestroyer: But O’Malley had a great opportunity to put himself head and shoulders above the others, to stand out and be different. But he backed down, even though he was right. Not a smart move. Sanders – I don’t think he head any idea what was going on.
    This photo of a mob scene can end up being very damaging to Democrats: a party “out of control”.

    “I paid for this microphone”

  54. Tillman says:

    @Mumbles:

    So, yes, it is in part about angering others, in the hopes that they’ll do some self-examination. Certainly, such people can’t do significantly worse than what they’re doing now.

    Because history has shown that anger is the emotion conducive to clear thinking! 🙂 “If you can’t do something right, do something stupid.”

  55. anjin-san says:

    @Tyrell:

    You are starting to fail at parody…

  56. Tyrell says:

    @michael reynolds: I loved Dragnet and Jack Webb was a top actor. “Barnaby Jones” and McGarret (Hawaii. 5 0) seemed to follow the rules.
    “Book ’em, Dan O ! “

  57. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Marvel’s had 12 big hits in a row and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Iron Man read anyone their rights.

    Fess up — you’ve just finished Charlie Stross’s latest “Laundry” novel, haven’t you?

  58. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Once again, progressives refuse to think about their own policy proposals past the point of status seeking. You know that having the FBI investigate every police shooting is meant to decrease the number of police shootings. How do you have fewer police shootings without having less policing overall?

    Progressives love to claim that they are driven by facts and data but the data from Baltimore is that when law enforcement decreases, murders, attempted murders, and assaults increase. It is amazing that progressives would claim that thinking about incentives is childish.

  59. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “I have no patience for people who are right but stupid. We’ve just seen what right-and-smart can do. ”

    And seen it again with the fight for a $15 minimum wage. Because the protestors weren’t demanding “economic justice” (although it is) or “respect for my life,” They demanded something specific and concrete, and left their opponents in the position of either giving in or explaining why they were wrong — and there were no good arguments against it, just as there were with gay marriage.

    I get outrage at the inequities of our society. But if you want a change, you’ve got to come up with the specific change you want to see made.

  60. bill says:

    i guess saying “all lives matter” is racist with this crowd of over-reactive rejects? the blm crowd can’t see the irony of their own protests as 90+% of blacks are killed by blacks. maybe address the issue with the people mostly responsible? nah, logic skipped a generation here.

  61. stonetools says:

    Meanwhile at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Cleveland , where Tamir Rice was murdered by the police, police are indiscriminately pepper spraying the demonstrators and arrested a 14 year old.
    When I see the way the police respond to #BLM demonstrators, I can certainly understand their impatience and lack of decorum. It’s easy to sit at your computer keyboard and coolly tell the #BLM folks what to do, but its a lot harder to put yourself on the line for the cause. That’s why I am more sympathetic to them than most posters.

  62. DrDaveT says:

    @superdestroyer:

    How do you have fewer police shootings without having less policing overall?

    The same way you have fewer wife-beatings without having less marriage.

    Moron.