How much destruction are Americans willing to take?
The past week saw riots in Atlanta and Boston. In Atlanta, the rioters were allegedly up in arms about the death of Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, an environmental activist who was shot and killed by police after he shot a Georgia State Trooper in the stomach. (The officer survived.) Teran and others were protesting the construction of a new police training facility, and according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, protests against that facility have been ongoing and violent for months, with property destroyed, buildings damaged by arson, windows shattered by rocks, police vehicles set on fire, and officers themselves attacked with rocks, glass bottles and other projectiles. Some of the individuals arrested after last week’s riots had explosives in their possession.
The unrest in Boston was triggered by the shooting death of 20-year-old Sayed Faisal last month. Faisal – who is alleged to have suffered from mental illness – ran at police wielding a short sword, and refused to stand down even after police used “sponge” rounds to try to subdue him.
Both the Atlanta and Boston riots have been attributed to Antifa. Georgia congressional Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has introduced legislation that would declare Antifa actors to be “domestic terrorists.” Such a designation is long overdue, against Antifa and other groups that increasingly use riots to make their points.
American political history has been punctuated with plenty of violence, but the current wave seems to have begun after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. On his Inauguration Day, thousands of rioters clad in black wrought havoc in Washington, D.C., spraying graffiti on buildings, breaking store windows, throwing projectiles that injured several police officers and setting public trash cans and vehicles – including a limousine – on fire. Articles at the time described the riots and destruction as “coordinated” and “organized.” Similar anti-Trump protests broke out in cities across the country, with violence occurring in many of them, as well.
Despite the destruction in the nation’s capital, charges filed against all the Inauguration Day rioters were ultimately dropped. A July 2018 NBC News article described the government’s decision as a function of being up against “an intensely coordinated grassroots political opposition network that made Washington the focus of a nationwide support campaign — offering free lodging for defendants, legal coordination and other support.”
One rioter, Dylan Petrohilos, celebrated the defendants’ victory, saying, “The solidarity we showed … won out.” Another activist, Sam Menefee-Libey, agreed, saying, “I hope that organizers and people on the left study it.”
Sure looks that way.
Since 2017, Antifa activists have been responsible for countless violent protests. In 2018, Antifa actors showed up at “Unite the Right” political rallies in Washington, D.C., Charlottesville, Virginia and Toronto, Canada, attacking police officers, journalists and random bystanders.
2019 was worse, with Antifa violence percolated up in more locations. Journalist Andy Ngo was beaten by Antifa thugs while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, in June. In December, Ngo warned in an opinion piece for Newsweek that “the violence that swirls around antifa and those who fall victim to its ideology may only grow in 2020.”
He did not know how prophetic those words would be.
2020 was the year of riots. The May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis sparked the #BlackLivesMatter movement and protests across the nation demanding changes to police policies (including the elimination of entire police departments). Public sentiment was further inflamed by the (nonlethal) shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Nearly 9,000 protests erupted in more than 300 U.S. cities. While most were small and peaceful, many of the protests turned appallingly violent. The National Guard had to be called into 22 states, and Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Bakersfield, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Des Moines, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Louisville, Minneapolis, New York City, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento and San Jose all suffered rioting in one weekend, with damaged vehicles, broken windows and stolen property, buildings set on fire, physical attacks against police officers and gunfire.
Violence and lawlessness continued to spread. Portland had more than three months of nightly riots. There were thousands of incidents of arson and millions of dollars lost to looting in every affected city. Businesses — including minority-owned businesses — were damaged and destroyed. 450 were damaged in New York City. 1,500 were damaged in Minneapolis/St. Paul — 360 of them completely destroyed.
Three days of rioting and arson in Kenosha, Wisconsin — a city of less than 100,000 people — damaged more than 100 buildings and destroyed 40 local businesses, including the entire Black business district.
All told, the 2020 riots took the lives of more than two dozen people and cost upwards of $2 billion in insured losses. There is probably no way to calculate the losses not covered by any kind of insurance.
At least two talking points get thrown out about these riots. First, that it isn’t really “violence” if it only involves destruction of property, and second, that there is no organization or entity behind these events; the rioters spontaneously and organically just show up and “do their own thing.”
Both claims are nonsense.
Anyone who lost the business they spent their lives building to arson can tell you that what they’ve suffered is actual violence.
Furthermore, most of those arrested after the recent riots in Atlanta do not reside in Georgia. This, oddly, has been true of many of the riots of the past several years, including Inauguration Day 2017.
So, who’s rallying these “troops”? Who’s paying for their transportation and accommodations when they travel to do their wanton destruction? Who pays their bail when they are arrested, and for their legal representation?
Perhaps a more important question is this: The violent in this country have learned that riots get them what they want. How much longer will Americans put up with it?