“The Capitol is not a liquor store.”
— Rabbi Yosie Levine
At the beginning of the Black Lives Matter protests, I was dismayed that some BLM leaders were saying that rioting was justified. This incendiary declaration from New York City’s BLM leader Hank Newsome was most unfortunate: “If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it.”
What troubled me even more was misquoting Martin Luther King to condone violence. In a 1967 speech “The Other America,” King made his position crystal clear: “Let me say, as I’ve always said, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating.”
BLM leaders argued that police shootings and the insidious persistence of racial discrimination justified these actions. These same excuses were offered to King 60 years ago, but he bravely adhered to what he had learned from the nonviolent teachings of Gandhi and Christ.
To their credit, Democratic Party leaders have condemned the rioting. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned: “Our democracy has no room for inciting violence or endangering the public, no matter the ideology of those who commit such acts.”
At the time, Joe Biden said that “protesting police brutality is right and necessary and the American response. But burning down communities and needless destruction are not.”
Republicans are now pointing to infractions associated with BLM, and they are crying “they did it too” as an answer to the Capitol insurrection. By condoning violence, BLM leaders have lost the moral high ground that King always preserved.
It is true that many white nationalists (those, for example, in Richmond, Va.) were found marching under BLM banners setting fires and breaking windows. On the other hand, they were largely absent from weeks of rioting in Portland.
The largest civil rights movement in American history has been marred by violence, and one poll showed a 9-percent drop in approval for BLM — from 61 to 52 percent from June to September of last year.
That difference, however, pales into insignificance when we learn that 81 percent of those polled condemn the Capitol rioters and 58 percent blame Donald Trump.
I submit that the difference in response is a recognition that BLM was fighting the ugly truth of systemic racism and police brutality, whereas Trump spread the big lie about election fraud that led to an assault on the seat of our democracy.
Widespread burnings and window breaking are certainly criminal, but, as New York Rabbi Yosie Levine tweeted: “The Capitol is not a liquor store.”
One commentator put it this way: “The two events were fundamentally different. One was an intentional, direct attack on a hallowed democratic institution, with the goal of overturning a fair and free election. The other was a coast-to-coast protest movement demanding an end to systemic racism that occasionally, but not frequently, turned violent.”
The largest number of domestic terrorist attacks have come from far-right militants, and 275 deaths in the last decade have been attributed to them. Only one murder, which happened during the Portland protests, was committed by an anti-fascist.
Although 70 percent of Republicans believe that antifa was involved in the insurrection, this claim is demonstrably false. Newsweek fact checkers have concluded that John Sullivan, the one suspected anti-fascist, was not “a member of antifa, Black Lives Matter, or any other left-leaning group.” It is significant that GOP leader Kevin McCarthy stated: “There is absolutely no evidence of antifa’s presence.”
White nationalists infiltrated BLM protests, but no left-wingers were at the Capitol that day. Furthermore, six Capitol policemen were suspended and 29 others are under investigation for enabling the rioters. White nationalists within our police forces are a serious problem.
Race-baiting Donald Trump and his rogue attorney Rudy Giuliani are being sued under the 1871 “Klu Klux Kan” law, which criminalizes anyone who uses “force, intimidation, or threat” to prevent people from performing the duties of their office.
It is truly ironic that a law aimed at the most vicious form of racism is being used against a person who invited racists and neo-Nazis to storm the Capitol of the United States of America.