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Opinion: In Calls For Civility, Liberals Miss The Mark On How Protesters Actually Fight Back

Opinion: In Calls For Civility, Liberals Miss The Mark On How Protesters Actually Fight Back

protesters civility

Photo: A protester carries a U.S. flag upside down, a sign of distress, next to a burning building, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

A funny thing happened the other day…

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s neighbors protested in front of his house to compel him to uphold the Roe v. Wade decision in light of the leaked draft opinion on the upcoming abortion case. Good for them.

But not so fast, said the now-former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. In a tweet, Psaki said that while protesting is a right, violence, threats and vandalism are not and judges shouldn’t have to fear for their personal safety.

I would agree with Ms. Psaki, but two truths give me pause. The first is that what’s good for the goose is certainly good for the gander, à la the Supreme Court’s rejection of a buffer zone when protesting outside an abortion clinic. And Chief Justice John Roberts said, “petitioners are not protesters.”

Secondly, civility isn’t the most effective tactic.

It’s a common refrain among liberals regarding civility in politics, political disagreements and protests. Psaki’s chiding is reminiscent of the attempted wrist-slapping by liberals (and Republicans) of Congresswoman Maxine Waters when she called for a confrontation with the Trump administration.


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But when you’re a part of a regime that takes away people’s rights, you shouldn’t any expect red carpet treatment.

What else was Psaki supposed to say? She was part of an established order invested in maintaining that order amidst a chaotic time of income inequality and the stripping of voting rights, the right to protest, and female reproductive rights in the middle of a global pandemic.

Of course, this is what she said but I contend that she knows better.

By nature, protests disrupt order to draw attention to an issue and/or to change that very issue. But liberals assume that’s not how protests work — that protests shouldn’t make people uncomfortable or disgruntled to the point of forcing change, that non-disruptive protests are enough to appeal to reasonable minds.

Problem is that the minds of those with power aren’t all that reasonable, except when met with a demand. Only then will those powers concede.

Five-thousand-word think pieces aren’t enough. The use of a flag as your profile picture won’t do it. That argument at work or on Thanksgiving won’t achieve much. Folks can romanticize the activism that manifests itself in the form of violence in other nations, but until folks believe they are on the edge of ruin, to the extent that they adopt an any-means-necessary attitude, there will be no revolution. Unless 1776 was all the revolution you think the United States needs.

How do you think people have achieved the freedoms they have to this point? By civility?

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Civil rights and voting rights came by way of disrupting the established order through protest, boycotts and divestment — tactics bemoaned by liberals in the case of the Palestinian struggle against the Israelis, but I digress. Enslavement didn’t cease due to civility. A war happened to end enslavement. In both those cases, civility, along with law and governance, were the problems and disruption helped lead to the solution.

Maybe liberals are afraid of the January 6 crowd protesting at the homes of Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. I get it, but there’s a difference between protecting the innocent — those who fight on behalf of justice — and those working to dismantle just laws and take away the rights of others. Nevertheless, the liberal-controlled U.S. Senate passed an emergency bill to provide more security for Supreme Court justices.

But I say, keep protesting in front of Justice Kavanaugh’s house. When the police attempt to arrest you, just say you’re a petitioner and not a protester.

Photo: A protester carries a U.S. flag upside down, a sign of distress, next to a burning building, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Rann Miller is the director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .