Posts Tagged ‘Protests’

Unsafe mass protests can spread the virus

June 7, 2020

[Update 6/21/2020] Evidently outdoor protests were not as dangerous as feared.

It Doesn’t Look As If the George Floyd Protests Are Causing a Coronavirus Spike by Fred Kaplan for Slate.

Of course outdoor gatherings of people wearing masks are different from indoor gatherings of people unmasked.

Nicholas A. Christakis, a Yale professor whose specialty is how human biology and health are affected by social networks, wrote a Twitter thread about how mass protests can promote the spread of the coronavirus.

While protestors have the right to risk their own lives, they are likely to spread the disease into their own communities if infected.

He said it is possible to mitigate risk by means of masks and social distancing.  He also called upon police to avoid the use of tear case and to not throw protesters together in crowded cells.

Certain fundamental Protestant and Pentecostal churches have held services in defiance of social distancing rules.  Some members have become infected and some have died.

People who gather in mass protests risk the same fate.  The virus is a blind force of nature.  It doesn’t care if your religion is true or your cause is just.  It will spread just the same to you and, through you, to the people you care about.

During the urban riots in late 1960s and early 1970s, we US Americans talked about “long, hot summers.”  Now we’re looking forward to a summer of public unrest and mass protests against the backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis and a bitterly-contested presidential election.  Interesting times!


Suddenly Public Health Officials Say Social Justice Matters More Than Social Distance by Dan Diamond for POLITICO.

Nicholas A. Christakis Thread: “I want to go on record with obvious point…”

Nicholas A. Christakis Thread Reader.  A copy.

The Perils of Writing a Provocative Email at Yale by Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic.

A World Historical Tragedy by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Greta Thunberg urges climate protests to move online because of coronavirus outbreaks by Justine Caima for The Verge.  [Added Later]

Donald Trump and the limits of protest

March 23, 2016

I admired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was alive.   I admire the thinking of Gene Sharp.  I think civil disobedience is justified when all else fails.

But I do not agree with the non-violent protests that shut down an Arizona highway near a Donald Trump campaign events, nor with other protests intended to prevent Trump from speaking.

Dr. King’s non-violent protests were strategic attacks on structures of power.  His protests succeeded to the extent that people in power concluded it would cost them less, in terms of damage to profits and reputation, to give in to his demands than to fight them.

They also succeeded to the extent that Dr. King was able to convince the larger American public that his cause was just, and his protests were disciplined and organized as to give his followers the moral high ground.

Dr. King had specific lists of demands.  His opponents always knew what they had to do in order to shut off the protests.

trumpblock20Protestors who try to shut down Donald Trump rallies do not hurt either Trump’s reputation nor his profits.  Instead they solidify Trump’s support, while inconveniencing and alienating the general public.

Those protestors are not defending their Constitutional rights.  Instead they are denying Trump his right of free speech and his followers their right to peaceably assemble.

Yes, I know the Constitutional rights of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and other groups have not been respected, and that Donald Trump himself is not a friend of civil liberties.  That does not mean that he and his followers are not entitled to hold meetings or that there is anything to be gained in trying to deny them that right.


A word of advice to protesters

June 29, 2015
Micah White

Micah White

Thinking strategically, I believe it is very important never to protest directly against the police.

Because the police are actually made to absorb protest—the objective of the police is to dissipate your energy in protesting them so you’ll let alone the most sensitive parts of the repressive regime in which we live: politicians and big corporations.

We must protest more deeply.

via Micah White, PhD | Occupy Wall Street Cocreator.

NYPD forms new unit for protesters, terrorists

February 1, 2015

William Bratton, New York City’s police commissioner, is creating a special  unit to deal with counter-terrorism and protests, which he evidently sees as two faces of the same coin.   It will be equipped with machine guns.

Commissioner William Bratton

William Bratton

The NYPD will launch a unit of 350 cops to handle both counter-terrorism and protests — riding vehicles equipped with machine guns and riot gear — under a re-engineering plan to be rolled out over the coming months.

The Strategic Response Group, or SRG, will be devoted to “advanced disorder control and counter-terrorism protection,” responding to the sort of demonstrations that erupted after the Eric Garner grand jury decision and also events like the recent Paris terror attacks.

“It will be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not,” Commissioner Bill Bratton said Thursday.

“It will be equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and the machine guns that are unfortunately sometimes necessary in these ­instances.”

via New York Post.

Bratton later issued a clarifying statement that the NYPD does not plan to use machine guns against protesters.   That leaves open the question of why a special team with machine guns would be needed in situations such as the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris.

I can well imagine machine guns being used against a mass uprising.   Maybe I’m being paranoid, probably I am, but the powers-that-be are acting as if they expect a mass American uprising and are acting preemptively to prevent it.

There is historical precedent.  Many National Guard units and armories were created in the late 19th century order to be ready for a possible workers’ revolt, and in fact were used against strikers.

Evidently Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed to creation of the new unit.   Maybe this is a price he thinks he has to pay to stop the police rebellion against his authority.

It is ominous for democracy that the NYPD considers the peaceful, lawful protests that followed the Eric Garner attacks to be in the same category as terrorism.   It also is ominous that the NYPD’s obedience to civil authority cannot be taken for granted.   I don’t see how anything good can come of this.


NYPD’s Bill Bratton Unveils Plans For New Anti-Terror Police Unit by CBS New York.

NYPD Hyper Militarization Escalates with Bratton’s SRG for Advanced Disorder Control by Rainbow Girl on Corrente.

NYPD: Fine, Maybe We Won’t Police Protests With Machine Guns by Ben Yakas for The Gothamist.

Protests in perspective

October 6, 2014
Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Source: The Economist (via Naked Capitalism)

David Graeber on the practicality of protest

May 14, 2013

Economic anthropologist David Graeber was one of the early participants in Occupy Wall Street.  He wrote an interesting article in the current issue of The Baffler in which he argued that the power of the political and economic elite is based on their ability to convince the rest of us that there is no alternative to the status quo.  He said that is why they have such fear of dissent and protest.

One often hears that antiwar protests in the late sixties and early seventies were ultimately failures, since they did not appreciably speed up the U.S. withdrawal from Indochina.   But afterward, those controlling U.S. foreign policy were so anxious about being met with similar popular unrest—and even more, with unrest within the military itself, which was genuinely falling apart by the early seventies—that they refused to commit U.S. forces to any major ground conflict for almost thirty years.

David Graeber

David Graeber

It took 9/11, an attack that led to thousands of civilian deaths on U.S. soil, to fully overcome the notorious “Vietnam syndrome”—and even then, the war planners made an almost obsessive effort to ensure the wars were effectively protest-proof.   Propaganda was incessant, the media was brought on board, experts provided exact calculations on body bag counts (how many U.S. casualties it would take to stir mass opposition), and the rules of engagement were carefully written to keep the count below that.

The problem was that since those rules of engagement ensured that thousands of women, children, and old people would end up “collateral damage” in order to minimize deaths and injuries to U.S. soldiers, this meant that in Iraq and Afghanistan, intense hatred for the occupying forces would pretty much guarantee that the United States couldn’t obtain its military objectives.

And remarkably, the war planners seemed to be aware of this.  It didn’t matter.  They considered it far more important to prevent effective opposition at home than to actually win the war. It’s as if American forces in Iraq were ultimately defeated by the ghost of Abbie Hoffman.

I think this is true.   The reason the United States government is moving heaven and earth to capture Julian Assange and punish Bradley Manning is the fear of letting the American public know what the government really is doing.  Fear is the reason for the massive police response to the Occupy movement and to protests generally is so out of proportion to what is actually being done.

Urban police departments have military equipment and are encouraged to use military tactics, as if they were an occupation force in a hostile foreign country.   It is as if the powers that be are preparing to suppress an uprising among the citizenry.

The United States government has, for more than 30 years, been dismantling government regulation of corporations and Wall Street banks, dismantling the social safety net and reducing taxes on rich people, with the promise of economic growth and prosperity for all, and that this promise has not been fulfilled.    It also is true that the optimism and hope for a better future, which has characterized American life since before the United States was an independent nation, is vanishing.   And historically, disappointed hopes were what inspired revolutions.   So it is no wonder that the elite are fearful.

Click on  A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse for Graeber’s complete article, which is well worth reading in full.  The article was taken from Graeber’s new book, The Democracy Project (which I haven’t read).  Click on A Kaleidoscopic Sense of Possibility for Graeber’s discussion of the book with Lynn Parramore of Alternet.

Extreme talk and double standards

March 8, 2011

I disagree with Jack Hunter on issues, but he is dead right about his perspective about extreme talk.

Obviously Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is not comparable to Stalin, Hitler and the Egyptian dictator Mubarak.  I doubt that any union protesters in Wisconsin really believe that he is.  Their signs are just a way of venting their anger.  I don’t think the signs are helpful, but I can understand the anger.

I am sure many self-identified conservatives feel the same about Tea Party signs depicting President Obama as Hitler, Stalin or Osama bin Laden.

The point is not what labor union members or Tea Party members put on their signs, but which has the better ideas.  I think the union protesters are right for the most part and the Tea Party protesters for the most part are confused, but I ought to be able to make my case for this based on the merits.