Guns don’t belong at protests

Dear Friends,

Many people have wondered about the identity and motive of “Naked Athena.” Wonder no more. “Jen” shares her fascinating story on Unrefined Sophisticates, an alternative media outlet based in Portland, Oregon.

I have three focal points to discuss regarding the violence at BLM protests across the country. First, and most obviously, I’m appalled that President Trump sent storm troopers to Portland and Seattle. The deployment only incited bigger protests and elicited solid opposition from local authorities and the general public.

Kudos to the thousands of peaceful, nonviolent people who turned out, including the Wall of Moms, the Wall of Vets, Naked Athena, and Chris David — the Navy Vet who took a beating for trying to talk with storm troopers. These are patriotic, justice-loving Americans using creative acts of nonviolence to call out the evils of racism and the rapidly evolving police state.

Second, there have been isolated acts of vandalism and looting. Some speculate it’s white supremacists who want to make the BLM movement look bad. I wouldn’t be surprised, though it could also be fringe elements on the left. Either way, kudos to BLM leaders for denouncing it, and shame on the mainstream media for not doing enough to report on who’s behind it.

Garret Foster and Whitney Mitchell.

The third element of violence involves the deeply disturbing images of armed citizen militias in Louisville, Kentucky, and Austin, Texas. White-power gangs and BLM supporters walking through the streets, toting assault weapons are simply terrifying.

If this display of force escalates, how is it not going to lead to bloodshed and death?

Well, it already has. This weekend in Austin, 28-year-old BLM activist Garret Foster was shot and killed while carrying an AK-47-type rifle. According to witnesses, Garret was trying to protect his wheelchair-bound fiancée, Whitney Mitchell, as the driver of a car honked his horn and lunged into the crowd of protesters. Hiram Gilberto’s livestream captured the incident at about the 2:35:30 mark. Viewer discretion advised.

Members of the Not F**king Around Coalition display their weapons in Louisville.

Meanwhile last weekend in Louisville, 300 members of the Atlanta-based Black militia group Not F**king Around Coalition and 50 members of the Three-percenters marched in close proximity. Both groups were heavily armed.

I never thought I’d see the day when Americans parade through downtowns carrying assault weapons, and that our lax gun laws would actually allow this in many states. Tension over systemic racism is already at a boiling point. When the conflict gets uglier, does anyone believe those guns won’t be used?

For those who embrace the moral and political necessity of nonviolence, our challenge is to put out the message, over and over again, that injustice will not be defeated with guns. We defeat injustice with love that is sincere, creative, organized, and disciplined.

I’ll close by paraphrasing my colleague, Jeff Kisling, a long-time peace and justice activist, who wrote on the same subject in a recent blog. The point of civil disobedience is to confront injustice nonviolently. That generates a certain amount of conflict, and that’s ok. The goal is to create a space to step back from violence, so that the underlying issues can be identified and addressed.

It’s up to protesters to make this happen, to refuse to react violently to provocation. If we look back, for example, on Black students in the 1960s sitting calmly at segregated lunch counters, not reacting when they were taunted and as food was dumped on them — these are the images that captured the attention and hearts of Americans and inspired them to stand up to injustice, not the occasional protester who might have acted violently.

To quote directly from Jeff’s blog: “It’s sad to see these failures to maintain discipline in the face of violence occurring at the same time we honor the life of John Lewis, who led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Lewis taught nonviolent tactics and used every opportunity to talk about love and creating beloved communities.”

For more on Lewis’ views on peace and nonviolence, check out this link.


Here’s an overview of this week’s program:
1. Guns don’t belong at protests
2. Congressional rays of hope for our planet (with Len Montgomery, Environment Iowa)
3. Celebrating 30 years of the ADA (with Frank Strong, member, American Council of the Blind)
4. Vine-ripe vs Counter-ripe: Where do you stand? (with Kathy Byrnes, Birds & Bees Urban Farm)
(Click here for Facebook video of our fourth segment)

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Ed Fallon