During Donald Trump’s presidency, we are witnessing an impressive acceleration of nonviolent action to resist and redress injustices — both those inflicted on us by corporations (like oil and gas pipelines) and those imposed on us by our own government (like law enforcement’s militarized response to peaceful Black Lives Matter protests).
In Portland, Oregon last weekend, we witnessed some astounding tactical innovations in nonviolent action. First, there was the woman people are calling Naked Athena.
“A mysterious, naked protester put on a display so profound it ended with officers turning away from a raucous crowd they had been firing pepper bullets and tear gas at just moments before.” (Yahoo News)
“She stood calmly, a surreal image of human vulnerability in the face of an overpowering force that has been criticized nationally by civil rights advocates.” (from The LA Times)
The right-wing media, of course, had a different take: “Antifa psychopath loses her mind, strips naked to ‘protest’ Portland police” (from The Nationalist Review). One could write an entire article dissecting that ridiculous headline.
Nonviolent action is inherently creative. It is sometimes risky, often quirky. At its most effective, it catches the forces of oppression off guard, ripping apart their facade of legitimacy and exposing the raw ugliness of systemic violence.
Naked Athena closed out the night’s protest, standing in the middle of the street as the storm troopers retreated. Earlier that evening, women wearing yellow shirts, masks, and bike helmets linked arms to form a Wall of Moms between police and protesters. They chanted, “Moms are here. Feds stay clear!”
It’s impossible not to notice that, for the most part, police are much more willing to use violence against young, Black, Hispanic, and Native (remember Standing Rock) protesters. All but the most callous and heartless officers seem to have a harder time pepper spraying and clubbing self-identified moms (who, it must be noted, were mostly white). And since most officers had probably never been confronted by an unarmed, naked woman (also white) posing in front of them, they were less inclined to use violence.
But when it came to being challenged by 53-year-old Navy vet Chris David that night, officers had no trouble pummeling him, breaking two bones, and then pepper spraying him twice.
It should be noted that this was David’s first-ever protest.
“David was home watching television on Saturday, the 52nd straight night of protests in the city, getting angrier by the moment when he learned that unidentified federal officers had been sent to Portland by President Donald Trump to deal with local protestors.