Two great minds speak on the demonstrations

PBN News recently reached out to two very different figures in our community sphere regarding current societal demonstations in the United States. The wake of anger at the death of George Floyd brought a watershed moment to our society. Even now, day to day news is flush with updates regarding events with quickfire response.

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

The Pagan and Spiritual communities have boots on the ground in this era. dialogues and position statements fill the social webs with greater frequency. We were fortunate to interview authors Eric R. Vernor and Robin Artisson, by correspondence.

It has now been a couple of weeks since the beginning of the riots sparked by the George Floyd death. The demonstrations following the wake of the national response to the video range from peaceful to riotous.  Why do you feel this incident is different enough to cause such a response?


Going off my perspective only, and the things that I see or become aware of, I’d say that first, the George Floyd video was particularly egregious, particularly long and drawn out, and more painful to watch because of that. In a lot of captured footage or even police body cams, we’re often treated to edited video, or shaky, hard-to-see video, which only gives us (if we’re lucky) a few moments of actual focus on the heart of an incident. A lot of videos I’ve seen are pretty chaotic, as you’d expect from ordinary people trying to hold a phone in the middle of a high-energy situation, or a dangerous situation. Police footage that I’ve seen always has that weird tight angle that constrains a lot of perspective, and I find them hard to watch.

The Floyd Video was pretty clear and viewers had a lot of time to hear the pain and fear in his voice, and to see the nigh-emotionless cops standing and kneeling there, slowly executing him. We got to see the total lack of concern in their faces as they were destroying a man’s life- a man who was not a suspect in any kind of violent crime or altercation. I of course don’t think that people being suspected of violent offenses deserve to be executed by police, I just mean that any reasonable justification (as would ordinarily be given for such violence to be exercised on Floyd) was completely absent here.

When people have that length of time to sit and absorb such a video, to see and hear these things for eight minutes, I think it really wakes up a rage or anger inside, it gives people time to get their emotional stakes driven in pretty well. This is no bumpy, distant video that lasts 45 seconds and ends with three “pop” noises and a grainy body falling to the ground.

Added to the nature of the video are several other incidents that had all occurred around the same time- the controversy over Breonna Taylor being murdered by police while sleeping in her bed, the moron woman in Central Park who threatened a black man who had asked her to leash her dog with the police, and then called them, and of course Ahmaud Arbery who was hunted and killed by violent racists while jogging in Georgia- these “back to back” outrages, I think, had already destabilized the air. When you blend all of these things together, a perfect storm might emerge.


Honestly, I believe it is a two-fold reason, from two different angles. First, the incident itself was different only in the fact it was filmed and widely shared on social media. These types of foul and abusive behavior is sadly not a rare occurrence, but it is rare that it was ever caught on film to cause a viral reaction after its initial exposure. I also think on the other perspective that the riots aspect was largely people looking for a reason to be hostile as it was already in their nature to behave such a way.

There is no excuse for hurting people on either side of the situation, violence escalation to innocent people should never be chalked up to misdeeds of another who equally did not deserve it. Plenty of people to this day are justifiably angry and demanding change but not breaking laws and destroying things to do so. Being pegged as violent criminals in reaction to another crime against a POC does not aid the cause, it justifies it in the eyes of those defending the abusers and hurts the real goals of positive change.

What national factors do you believe could bear delving into for greater understanding of how we arrived at this point in history?


I can only speak from my own perspective, and that perspective is white and male. I did come from the deep south, from Louisiana, and that also transforms my perspective on these matters. All my life I was told stories about how we “got here”, and about what was wrong with every other group of people in our country, particularly African Americans. After I got older, and studied history (again, a history which was originally taught to me from a white and mainstream academic perspective) I began to recognize that many of the stories I had been told were wrong, or so heavily altered and slanted to the benefit of people like me that they were the equivalent of lies.

Branching out and studying history from other people’s perspectives- a thing I first encountered in the writings of Howard Zinn– I finally recognized that all the things I thought I knew about African American people, and their experiences, were really not right. I can’t really know African American experiences because I’ve not lived their lives. 
Being in Louisiana for so many years (I live in Maine now) African American people were obviously an ordinary part of my everyday life. They were my co-workers, the majority of my clients when I worked in the mental health field, they were sometimes teachers or instructors to me, they were sometimes friends even- and when you live like that, get familiar with African American people, you start to feel like you really know them somehow. But I discovered later that this wasn’t as true as I thought. There were still many barriers to me making real connections or understandings- cultural barriers, put in place ages ago. There was a ton about the experiences that African Americans had of the same society I was living in, which was hidden from me completely.

So every story I have, every idea I have about where all this violence and institutionalized racism comes from, is forever coming from an outsider’s perspective to the lives of the people that it exists to harm. I would say that “red lining“- a thing I only found out about a few years ago- the intentional plans laid by the leaders of financial and real estate industries to largely cut African American people out of the picture of American prosperity through property ownership, has an enormous role to play in how we’ve gotten where we are.

Stacking the economic deck against an entire demographic of Americans such that many of them are forced to live in poverty or far below the average standard of a white family breeds other issues- like crime- which then justifies the (over)use of a racist law enforcement industry. Having a for-profit Prison-Industrial complex which is, in essence, just another version of pre-Civil War slavery is another aspect of this. It’s not just profiting off of imprisoned black bodies, but is another means of gerrymandering, as these people in prison cannot vote.

I also personally believe that there is an enormous amount of white paranoia which is tied into the ugly history of our nation. I saw this myself, living all my life around conservative white people- their desire to own large collections of guns was based almost entirely on fear that black people might break into their homes and kill them or harm their families- even though home invasions were so uncommon in the places I lived, I never heard of a single one happening to anyone I knew, nor to anyone that was known by someone I knew.

And yet, this fear was there- that one day, black people were going to come “looking for payback” somehow, because of what what people had done to them long ago. Even the most intransigent racist individual knew, deep down, that black people had historically been horrifically mistreated by white people and white government. Many of them remembered Jim Crow. They remembered seeing black people mistreated in the streets, and they remembered when black people had to sit at the backs of busses, or couldn’t eat in the same restaurants, or drink from the same fountains, or had to use “colored entrances” to buildings. 

They might have tried the “black people didn’t have it so bad” stories that they tell- which ironically, they saw no contradiction in saying things like that while praising lynching- but all of them understood that things were much worse, in many regards, for African Americans before now. And there was a deep-seated, almost unconscious fear that one day, these debts would have to be paid, that these checks for such sweeping injustice would come due. And so they stockpiled firearm after firearm, all the while talking about how it was their “constitutional right to bear arms”, and fantasizing about killing black people who might threaten them.

I really strongly believe that our law enforcement industry reflects that attitude of white paranoia. That attitude leads white people to (even unconsciously) depict black people, particularly black males, as prone to crime, as dangerous, and untrustworthy. Black bodies are storied in extremely physical ways; black people are all said to be “more muscular” than white people naturally, or able to develop muscles faster; they are said to be “natural atheletes” because somehow they were “bred” to be stronger; and they are said to be more prone to sexual appetites and not as intelligent on the average. I heard all of these stories growing up, and long after I became an adult. 

I taught at a police academy once- I taught policemen about Constitutional Procedure and Use of Force. The sheer amount of casual and overt racism that was openly bandied about in that academy was shocking, even for the usual standards I had normalized from living in Louisiana. The cops were all very convinced that black people in their communities were dangerous, crime-prone, and somehow out to harm policemen. This was a perfect continuation of all these stories I had been hearing all my life. I know that these policemen heard those stories too, growing up, from every angle.
The police- or the majority segment of law enforcement which is white- exist to keep a wall between white and black America, at least as far as I can tell. They exist to take out white fear and white aggression towards black people, so that ordinary white civilians don’t have to dirty their hands. The police most often stand as symbols (to me) of White Hegemony. Black people may be “allowed” to access more of the spaces of America- the social spaces- but armed white men, most of whom are consciously or unconsciously eager to kill or injure black people are always there, always watching, always reminding everyone who’s still “on top” here.


Too few people learn history, as the saying goes, history repeats itself. If we remain ignorant of things like the Native Massacre of Wounded Knee against the Lakota peoples, or Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, which I never heard of at nearly fifty years old, how can we understand that universal suffering matters and for what reason if we are isolated? I was naïve and felt since I wasn’t racist that few people were seeing as I associate with only people who aren’t. It is more difficult to see problems others face and help fight it if we simply aren’t aware. We can’t fix what we don’t know is so badly broken.

Perhaps we need to examine the nature versus nurture aspect, everything that human beings do, think, or say has its origins from how they were conditioned by upbringing. Our environment creates either love or hate of others. Infants doesn’t understand someone’s race as good or bad, that is a taught response. If adults changed their views on their fellow man and stopped the cycle it would prevent future senseless deaths.

I think we need to make massive changes within every profession, in every service industry in how people are vetted. When people are hired, especially in a law enforcement career, they especially need to undergo careful scrutiny on how they would deal with people of other cultures. In order to truly enhance understanding, birth control policies based on race, education, and housing discrimination need scrutinized for improper bias.

Regarding the civilian bodies vs the police bodies, is there an avenue other than civil disobedience that seems viable at this time for societal change?


I personally think that property damage is a much faster vehicle for societal change than simple civil disobedience. I understand that damaging property is very dangerous, and I don’t want to see people get hurt of course, but in reality, change of the sort I’d like to see will only come when the owners of Capital- the owners of the big businesses and most of the property- realize that their investments and fortunes are not safe if we keep the system we have now the way it is.

Aside from intimidating and exercising socially-acceptable violence upon non-white people, the main task of the police is to protect property. Property is far more precious to our society than human lives are. If enough social upheavals result in enough millions of dollars of damage, it makes things happen. It makes local leaders quit or get fired from their jobs. It causes shakeups of police departments. It can make mayors resign or get voted out. 

When tons of damage is done, someone has to take the blame for the financial devastation. I don’t mean the people who actually liberated products from the shelves of corporate stores, or who set fire to police stations; I mean the population control managers. Police chiefs often get the boot when their officers do something particularly horrible and it gets caught on camera, especially if it leads to social unrest. 
When important people lose their jobs, the new people who step in usually want to _not_ lose their new jobs the same way. They will shake up their underlings, try to enforce new policies. This doesn’t always work, but it sometimes happens this way. 

Either way, the owners of Capital- the people who own most of the wealth of our nation- don’t want their investments being damaged or lost, not even a bit; they are very greedy. If they keep seeing their bottom lines being damaged, they will eventually change things around. They want a certain high degree of social order, so that (most) people can buy their stuff and pay their rents in an orderly, regular fashion. They hate the threat of riots or uprisings. And these days, they are far less willing to really unleash police or military upon civilians- though idiots like Trump and his closest cronies do talk tough. They seldom follow through.

I can’t ask protestors or people of color to put their bodies in constant harm’s way, particularly if I’m not willing to do it myself. But I do think that enough people unwilling to allow things to return to some kind of perfectly peaceful “order” would have more power to bring about faster and even perhaps deeper changes than they realize. But it’s still very hard because no one should have to be facing constant danger just to have basic rights, or basic safety when dealing with Law Enforcement. We can’t ask people to do this or expect them to. And yet, I think African Americans face this very reality every day (the reality of danger in the place of basic rights) to some degree. 


Of course, civil disobedience can be an aspect for change, but sadly it doesn’t come because people are kind and understanding, or the issue wouldn’t exist in the first place, would it? Unfortunately, it only happens after such a thing because we as a society demand, and the powers that be simply respond because the majority shift forces it to do so from momentary or power loss if they refuse altogether to concede even a little.  

As Matt Brooks once said, “Racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance have no place in our civil discourse. This is part of my responsibility as a Representative to the diverse constituency I represent.”

Civil discourse is one of the conditions that helps people live peacefully together in civil society, even if they may disagree with one another.    

Regarding the matter of force used by police in regarding the varied protests, are they holding a line for social order, or crossing it?


What I’ve seen would suggest that most police forces are crossing the line at every point. They are being used to violently re-assert control, not really to re-establish order in any positive sense of the word. For me, there might be a difference between control and order; control implies different kinds of violence or at least strong efforts being made to coerce something or someone. Order implies a kind of participation between people and other forces, in fairly predictable ways of relating. 

The Capital owners that police ultimately answer to want both control and order, and they may not think of these things as very different. They don’t have any reason to think about it too much, but ultimately they just want their investments and property protected, and they don’t care about the civil rights of people.


In truth, that is such a wide net to cast for a simple catch all answer. We see on the news and various personal cell uploads as the bad example of those who cross the line; however, I would hesitate to lay the actions of some at the feet of all. I think it varies greatly and many individual officers are doing both as doing your job well doesn’t make news generally.

Are the riots organic?


I think the riots are deeply organic. I think that they are the organic outcomes of predictable chains of forces coming together- forces that are intolerable and unjust- and outcomes of the human soul or the human spirit which is unable to tolerate injustice forever. “Organic” never means “orderly” or “predictable”, of course; and so riots are largely (and righteously) emotional, not completely rationally governed or anything like that. They are storms of the outraged human soul, or as Martin Luther King, Jr, said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”


As in not instigated by outside parties with their own agenda? I can’t say for sure that there aren’t people loving the civil unrest and would frankly use anything massive as an excuse to do damage and insight chaos. Having said that cavate though I don’t think it is big a move as conspiracy theories want to pontificate. Majority are people fed up and feel like everything peaceful attempted before fell on deaf ears, so they lash out in anger. It comes from feeling as if they are out of options other than breaking the law to get attention.

Are the violations of rights systemic or individual incidents in the attempts to quell the civil unrest?


In my view, systems don’t have rights; only individuals do, and so all violations of rights will be against individuals. Systems can violate the rights of individuals, but systems don’t themselves have them. 

In the attempts I’ve seen to quell civil unrest, there have been countless violations of individual rights. Both bad actors- in the form of police, mostly- and bad systems are at work here violating a lot of individual rights.


I believe it is systemic, although there are people of all races withing the system who always fight to improve their workplace all the time. However, since it is also a deep rooted emotional taught behavior that has existed for decades, every step forward is an uphill battle. I think some mayors and officers strive to uphold their oaths, have walked arm in arm and hugged protestors, truly sincere in their expressed compassion. Others have used it as a guise to get close to know who they might arrest or assault. Unfortunately people on both sides have done horrible things to cause each to not even trust overtures of mending damages. The road to recovery and forward progress will be slow.

Do you believe that there are separate factions within the movements that are destructive forces with alternate agendas?


I believe it’s pretty clear that all movements of any significant size will have interior factions, not all of which will be completely healthy or in alignment with a movement’s ultimate goals or aims. But not all movements are the same, of course, and so we have to start with the “public” face of the movements themselves. Corrective movements- movements that exist to correct some injustice in our society (like Black Lives Matter) probably don’t have interior factions that are just looking to use the larger goals of Black Lives Matter to work some kind of evil. If they do have such interior groups, I’ve never heard of them.

But conservative movements, even ones that claim that they just want “order” or “liberty” or individual freedoms and rights perserved almost always seem to have interior groups that are hell-bent on harming people of color, or sowing the seeds of greater civil disorder. We hear about these “extreme” factions more and more in media, and recently, ultra-conservative agitators have been arrested for killing police and causing mayhems that they tried to blame on protestors. They definitely exist.


Of course. The Boogaloo boys have long waited for the opening to step up and cause civil war against ‘tyrannical forces,’ and gangs will steal from looters as they pour out of shops. Human beings are capable of great acts of creation, love and beauty, but also of unimaginable cruelty and destruction.

Have the protests gone on too long, or not long enough?


I’m speaking from a place of safety and privilege when I say this, and I recognize that. But to me, emotionally, they can’t ever go on long enough. The sheer degree of systemic injustice that I have been able to recognize just by myself is enough to make me think that non-stop upheavals or riots are more than justified. The financial and social disparities in our nation are far uglier and more horrible than most of the people like me realize or understand. Under the surface, our country is not at all the wonderful thing that it likes to describe itself as.

Our nation has had generations worth of chances to correct some of its more terrible issues, but like clockwork, it never does. It makes (in my view) insignificant changes, which never cost any of the owners of Capital too much money, and it makes symbolic changes which never really impact the deep workings of society. Disadvantaged people stay disadvantaged. A “myth of progress” is always thrown around, but it falls apart when you really look at the bigger picture. 

This doesn’t mean that _no_ progress has been made. But if you look at the world as it is now, it’s obvious that whatever good things did happen in the past, they didn’t really handle the hearts of these problems. That’s hard to say, and it makes a lot of people feel unsafe, but I do believe it is true.

I think that riots that fade out quickly, or protests that disperse after a few days or weeks, or movements that are only “loud” for a short time in the Media’s attention, can’t really sustain what is necessary for bigger changes. A brief time of trouble is something that Capital can sweep under the rug; they can repair, get their insurance claims, make some symbolic gestures, and then business as usual can go on. The moment that tried-and-true formula can no longer be put in place, the longer the uncertainty is drawn out, the more likely we are to see something new happen


I don’t think protests should ever stop. Had people kept at it since the Watts Riots of the 1965 or Rodney King in 1992, or the Ferguson unrest of 2014, maybe there wouldn’t have been a 2020 protest.

What changes will likely happen in policing given the ongoing pressures, if any?


I have no real hope that police culture will change much. They’ve had generations of protection from the public, generations of immunity from consequences for their actions, and generations of being assured, behind the scenes, that they are righteous warriors for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. I think most of the white policemen I knew easily got convinced that they were defenders of the white American way of life- even if they couldn’t say that publicly, or be told that publicly. 

They all (in my experience) really absorbed this mythology that they were truly “protecting communities”- but they never saw black communities as “communities.” Those were the trouble places and the trouble people that they were protecting everyone else from. These men (and women) internalized these perspectives from so many different angles- it’s implicit in white society, but their bosses had “secret” talks with them on the regular, congratulating them on jobs well done, assuring them that the union and the courts and the local prosecutors would protect them, no matter what.

I think a lot of them felt like they were a secret, elite, special “army” protecting all that was good and positive in America. And since they can’t share all this completely openly with non-cops, they withdraw behind the “thin blue line“, or the “blue line”- they start only socializing with other cops and their families. They lose all trust for anyone who isn’t a policeman. They fall into a sub-culture of law enforcement which is ultimately deeply racist, paranoid, and harmful to everyone, particularly (of course) non-white people. 
I think uprisings and riots as we’ve seen only serve to make most police become stronger in their delusions. Being called names, “disrespected” by the public, being suddenly held accountable for the horrible things they regularly do- this puts them on the defensive, and makes them more set in their ways, as a matter of stubborn anger towards the public, which they are convinced owes them so much for “keeping them safe.” In reality, I don’t think police keep many people that safe. There’s little they can do in the case of most property crimes, unless of course we’re talking the major property of corporations, and there’s almost nothing they do that’s useful for many victims of rape or domestic abuse. 

What they are good at doing, however, is enforcing racist and classist laws, and people of color are who suffer the most from that. Minor drug offenses, for generations now, have destroyed countless lives, and more more lives of color than other kinds of lives. The police are policing people’s cultures or lifestyles more than applying laws fairly across the board, or keeping anyone safe from truly violent criminals.

I hear that a lot of police are resigning from their jobs due to the new scrutiny being placed on them, and because some are realizing that there may be actual consequences for their brutality against other human beings now. That’s good- but police are almost never out of a job. They can easily lose jobs for bad reasons in one place and get a job as a cop again in another place. They’ll be back, I think, if this heat dies down enough.


Some changes have already begun, from certain councilmen and women, even mayors and police chiefs stepping down, to demands of abuse or public push back for racists statements. Their will be defunding of some locations but not all. I think a lot of it will be from simply wanting to placate the masses and get things back to a normal ‘status quo’ all for the sake of economical stability overall as we barely have made any comeback from quarantine lockdown impacting commerce and families struggling to survive.

On the upside we can hope more people with social service skills and better educated people step in to take jobs in housing, police officers who actually want the job to improve relations between the people and cities officials. It has to start with the people they hire and the mindset of those in charge together. One without the other will fail.

Regarding the autonomous zones popping up in several states, are these sustainable protests for the long haul or bad tactics?


I love the idea, but I don’t think they are sustainable because our larger economic and social system has tons of ways of “re-absorbing” such movements and efforts, and because the people involved on the ground- the people who have created these zones- have never lived and operated for long periods of time as truly autonomous human beings, with positive power and social relationships surrounding them.

Everyone is conditioned by our ordinary social relations and economic relations, which are largely awful things. If we try new kinds of relations, things might go well for a short time, but for most people, the “old ways” of being will re-assert themselves. We just don’t have another script to play by, or understand the world by.

I hope for the success of such community efforts, though. 


Keeping an eye on the news, CHAZ for prime example, already has shown it can’t be sustained. They tried for the most to be peaceful, but as always there is no such thing as utopia when you put large part groups of people in one place.  Gunfire erupted and three were shot, one died, the wounded now wants to sue because the police didn’t come soon enough. When you put up barricades and call yourself a no cop zone, you can’t rationally expect to have services handy to do the job you deny them to do in the first place.

The organizers themselves have recently even said they never expected it to be permanent, but plan on continuing to fight for changes.

Have either of you seen a comprehensive list of demands from the protestors?


I have not.


I have seen a partial listing but not a full comprehensive list, no.

When you hear defund the police, for example, what is your reaction to their intiative to demilitarize our law enforcement?


I believe that taking funding away from police departments and applying that money to citizen-based health and safety initiatives is a great idea. I think the police are involved in many situations that they don’t have the training or the temperament to handle. They shouldn’t be responding to a mentally ill person who is acting out. They shouldn’t be putting people who suffer from addictive disorders into jail cells. They shouldn’t be standing over children in schools. There’s a lot of things they shouldn’t be doing, which might be better handled by other sorts of professionals.

People scream about “defunding police” like it’s a great attack on our whole American way of life, but almost no one raises a peep about the generations-long defunding of our education system. Teachers are made to take pay cuts on the regular, and get less gear and equipment to do their jobs. Cops can have a turn now, too.

As for the demilitarization, it is badly, badly needed. Cops should never have been designed to resemble miltiary organizations or units. Militaries fight against foreign nations and enemies of the state. Citizens of our nation are not those kinds of enemies. They don’t need to be treated so, or suspected of being another sort of “enemy” to society. That’s first class crazy. Cops never should have had heavy armor and military-grade weapons and armored vehicles, though to be fair here, our gun-happy society does make police interventions in some places more dangerous.

And yet, that is a consequence of our nation’s false consciousness regarding firearms. That’s a consequence of the NRA’s lobby and how it has pushed a false and flawed reading of the second amendment. We’re gun nuts, as a society, because it is good for a massive industry’s profits, and if that makes the jobs of police harder, cops should work to fix how our courts read the second amendment. They shouldn’t be taking this out on ordinary people and using military tactics and gear in the middle of people’s neighborhoods.


Initially I thought it meant to disband the department altogether, but after reading more up on it found it means taking less money from the city for surplus military handoffs and use the money elsewhere for public schooling and social services.

How should cities respond to these demands?


If you mean the demands of various protestors, I don’t know if that question can be answered in a general way. Each city has its own local histories and its own local realities. I’d imagine that various groups of protestors have different demands or things they want to see happen. 

Cities should, above all, stop their policemen from attacking protestors with flash bangs, concussive weapons, tear gas, and things of that nature. They should actually attempt to give the leadership of protests real voices and put them front and center before real media, sending their voices far and wide.

I think that would make “The unheard” feel heard- but it goes without saying that just being heard is not enough. The “other side”, the systemic forces, have to make legitimate changes and very large concessions. I think cities should accomodate protests as much as they possibly can. There’s so many things that city, state and other governments should do or could do, that I think will never be done that it’s impossible to list them all. 

One side making demands and another side choosing how to respond to demands might never lead us anywhere near a “fix” for our larger issues, which are cultural. We say we want all lives to be safe when dealing with law enforcement, and I think sane people do want that. But you can’t really “demand” that the police stop killing certain people. You have to change our culture and thus the sorts of people who are policing. But no one wants to wait that long, and indeed, black people can’t afford to wait that long, as they stand to lose more of their lives than others do, the longer we wait. Justice delayed is justice denied, as they say.


I feel a middle ground is needed. For officers on regular patrol it isn’t needed, but special weapons and narcotic units, narcotics of course need it for raids and response to active shooters. I do think they overuse it to prove they need more and more money that should go for other things that are part of the problem POC face. A middle ground would satisfy public safety and help the disadvantaged so they can lift themselves up.

How should rioters be treated vs peaceful demonstrators?


If by “rioters” you mean people causing property damage, I think cities or municipalities should measure the danger to human life against the predicted degree of loss, and act accordingly. No Walmart or Target location, and no Waffle House, is worth one human life. If it’s obvious that rioters will likely destroy a Walmart, Walmart’s insurance will replace every bit of that damage. We don’t have to see rioters hurt or killed over it, and we don’t need to see cops hurt or killed over it. It’s really not worth hurting people over insured corporate property- but that’s my take on the matter; I’m sure that the CEO’s of big corporations would disagree with me.

Rioters that actually menace the homes and lives of private individuals (of course) need to be disuaded from that. This is a point where someone has to step in, be it the private individuals themselves, if they can, or law enforcement, or other protestors, or someone- and protect human lives, which is important. I’ve not yet heard of “rioters” rushing into Beverly Hills and going mansion to mansion, dragging rich people out into the streets, and murdering them all. 

If I heard that was happening, I might agree that a lot of force might be justified against those kinds of rioters. I don’t think rioters wrecking the local Big Box Store need to have any special treatment sent their way.


If someone breaks the law, they need to be held accountable as if it is any other day. Hurting and killing people, vandalism, stealing from stores, it isn’t an excuse to have an anarchist free for all because you want to hijack a worthy cause during all the confusion.

Get real folks, there will be consequences afterwards. Of all people, the lawyer in New York should have known lighting five squad cars just might negatively impact her legal career.

Where to you see this going in the next 3 weeks?


I think that a slow media fade will happen, which will create the illusion that the controversy, anger, and situation has “quieted down” or gone away completely. I think that a lot of people who did take to the streets before will eventually have to go home, and I think that like so many other eruptions of fire in American media, this will pass into our hazy history.

I think that every side of the political world will capitalize on these protests and riots, one way or the other. Conservatives will try to get votes from conservative white Americans who see these protests and riots as attacks on White Hegemony, on the “white law and order” that they believe is the essence of America. Liberal politicians will try to get votes from liberals on the grounds that they’ll “reform” police or do something to defund police, or change how police operate, in the name of a more racially just America. But this is something we’ve all heard before, many times, and I have no reason to think it will go anywhere special after election season is all over.


Hopefully the destruction will die off and people will be willing to sit down an discuss the list of changes and implement new methods of behavior in policy. I’d like to think we can be better than we have as a nation, but time will tell.

Photo credit: Kenya Coviak

Lastly, in your own words, what do you believe would be a set of goals and outcomes that would be attainable and sustainable?


I don’t know how attainable or sustainable anything is, that might make a real difference. Even something as simple as our badly-needed conversation about race, even if it could be attained, might not be sustainable because white Americans seem to feel like any conversation on race is a huge attack against them personally. 

It’s definitely an attack on this story they tell themselves that “everyone in this country is equal, and everyone has the opportunity to get out there and make it.” That’s not a true story, but almost all of the white people I know- and I know a lot of them- believe strongly in this “fair world” myth. And they really need to feel like the world is fair. They hate any idea to the contrary- and I don’t think many of them could handle the truth about what other people have to face.

It’s almost like they don’t want to believe that anyone could have it harder than them, or that their own Ancestors or their own nation could have been so unfair to other people. There’s a shame there that many people (I think) are hiding from, or hard realities that they just can’t face.

So I have no faith that the conversation we need to have is possible or sustainable. We can’t reform all Law Enforcement from the Federal level, so there’s not much to attain there. We’d need all fifty states on board for that kind of reform, and I think nearly all the state governments and local governments like law enforcement to be right where it is. They don’t want to change it. The mayors of cities may claim (in the midst of crisis) that they want big changes, and the occassional Senator might pipe up, or some local representatives, but Capital itself wants police right where they are, doing what they’re doing.

We might be able to attain a sense for helping people who are known to be in special danger from law enforcement. During the recent protests, a man got famous for letting fleeing protestors into his house, and refusing to let the police get them out. Some of us might attain a sense for stopping what we’re doing when we see other people, particularly African Americans, being stopped by the police and observing or recording. 
We might attain a sense for how dangerous police are to African Americans, and so we might work hard not to get the police involved in situations when police don’t need to be (and they don’t often need to be.) A strange kind of revolutionary social responsibility of this nature might come about, and that’s a pretty good thing overall, in my view. And I think it might be sustainable.


Better hiring practices for fairness in treatment of all races across the board and job opportunities.

A mandatory prescreening of law enforcement officer’s mental health, along with a minimum of associates in criminal justice, first responders training and sensitivity training. Longer range time to make sure they don’t shoot people they aren’t aiming at would go a long way in making for better officers on the streets.

Improvements to fair housing, for starters, remove race from applications. Unless it is for census records, it shouldn’t matter to an employer or homeowner what color someone is. We all need a job, a home, to take care of ourselves and our families.

If we even just start here, we will repair broken relationships in many areas and make it so less people feel violence and crime are their only options to desperation. Eventually it may  solve a lot in a damaged nation and give the next generation more hope for their own future.

It is the goal of PBN to bring our readers greater access to the conversations happening among our communities. We thank both of our guests for their views on these matters, and invite you to join the conversation. It is through conversation that greater understanding happens.

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