In 2011, Adbusters, a Canadian glossy counterculture publication created a hashtag and made a poster. In weeks, a movement had been created which spread across North America and to dozens of countries.
In Feb, 2012, Noam Chomsky came to speak at the U of A. Members of Occupy Tucson, which would become one of the longest lived, if not the longest Occupy encampment in the country, came to the talk, of course. They lined up behind the microphones to thank him for his support and ask him what they should worry about going forward. To paraphrase Chomsky, he said “I commend you on what you have accomplished. Now you have to decide what you are going to do next.” The point is, protest in itself accomplishes two things, it mobilizes people and gets the attention of the power structure. These are good things, and very important, but if you have no idea what comes next, your movement will go the way of Occupy, becoming a vague memory.
I am White, male, and American. I possess more privilege than 99.99% of the world, so my voice is and should be secondary in the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests against police violence and systemic racism. That isn’t going to stop me from speaking, however. I fully support all the people taking to the streets. I acknowledge and understand the pain and anger even though I can never completely internalize the experience of being Black in America. I will not condemn the violence except where it has been committed by opportunist groups who always show up at mass protests, or by police, especially in Washington DC at the order of our White Supremacist president. I commend the police departments who have marched shoulder to shoulder with protesters in many cities, and the protesters who have filmed outside instigators in action and tried to stop them.
To paraphrase Chomsky again, “Now what?” Millions are mobilized across the country and around the world. I have some radical friends, all White, who say “burn it down.” They have no plan except the destruction of the status quo. If you tear it all down with no plan to rebuild, or if you depose the government with nothing to replace it, will you achieve your goal? The riots in 1968 arguably resulted in the election of Richard Nixon.
The NAACP have clearly articulated a list of demands, all of which can and should be met.
1 – A ban on the use of knee holds and choke holds as an acceptable practice for police officers.
2 – The Use Of Force Continuum for any police department in the country must ensure that there are at least 6 levels of steps, with clear rules on escalation.
3 – Each state’s Open Records Act must ensure officer misconduct information and disciplinary histories are not shielded from the public. Recertification credentials may be denied for police officers if determined that their use of deadly force was unwarranted by federal guidelines.
4 – Implementation of citizens’ review boards in municipalities to hold police departments accountable and build public confidence.
So, how do we get there? More protests? More destruction of our own neighborhoods? More police crackdowns? To we tear down the country and its governmental structure in the hope that some utopia will magically spring up in its place?
I don’t have an answer except to vote. That answer is profoundly inadequate for my Black friends who feel that they have gone to the ballot box again and again to no avail. All I can say is that Trump and McConnell have confirmed over 300 young right wing judges in 3 years, and will not stop unless we stop them. Don’t stop protesting, try to keep the protests non-violent, and show up at the damned voting booth in November so we can have a government more likely to be receptive to our demands.
Now a few words from one of the founders of Occupy Wall Street. Please take the time to listen.