What Happened to the Riots?
According to the Bridging the Divide Initiative, a Princeton think tank that conducts U.S. protest modeling with a wink and nod to the left, there was a free fall in the number of BLM-associated demonstrations and uprisings from a late-May peak to an October low. Who or what was responsible for this plunge?
In a recent televised and racially-divisive speech, First Lady emerita Michelle Obama echoed the familiar line that 93 percent of BLM demonstrations were peaceful. That’s true. Almost eight thousand demonstrations nationwide between late May and early October have supported the BLM meme. According to the Armed Conflict Location and Data Event Project (ACLED), a minority were major city demonstrations that culminated in street brawls. By contrast, the overwhelming majority were hometown gatherings and parades down main streets by teenage bubblegummers yelling buzzwords and waving homemade placards alongside their empathetic soccer moms.
The former first lady artfully omitted that the remaining 7 percent represented almost 600 violent BLM protests between late May and mid-September. The better part of those were inner-city, post-George Floyd donnybrooks bunched together from late May to mid-June. Antifa infested these demonstrations, their familiar black bloc regalia a telltale sign to police that a particular march would devolve into nighttime street brawling.
By late summer, Americans had suffered a bellyful. Opinion turned dramatically against BLM, particularly among sought-after white independent voters. Support dropped from 24 to 3 percent in just two months.
CNN anchorman Don Lemon, who has often made light of the mob violence for CNN’s two million primetime viewers, suddenly called for an end to hostilities. He fretted not over the loss of life, attacks on police officers, or the destruction of small businesses. Instead, he lamented that it wasn’t polling well for the Biden campaign.
Lemon’s apostasy and reproach was a warning shot to upper-crust Democrats that their reluctance to censure street anarchism was becoming a clear reflection of their support for the violence. Political and media apologists for BLM and Antifa began to realize that giving comfort to revolutionists was eroding their voter base. There was no sleight of speech that could whitewash a billion dollars in property destruction, the deaths of more than 30 people, and injuries to 400 police officers.
After an early summer windfall, corporate and individual donations are wilting. In a panic, BLM has quietly scrubbed their website of Marxist diatribes and distanced themselves from their affiliation to the cop-killing domestic terrorist, Susan Lisa Rosenberg. Rosenberg first raised hackles in May when she landed on the governing board of BLM’s first financial sponsor, Thousand Currents. In early July, BLM began to move its donations platform to the unobtrusive Tides Center, burrowing ever deeper into George Soros’ progressive fundraising PACS.
The Trump administration has also been playing a strong hand in putting down the more serious outbreaks. Offering no quarter by group or ideology, Attorney General William Barr has stood up a task force to target criminal conspiracies and major players behind the disturbances. No matter what political creed, those arrested for vandalism, arson, looting, or felonious assaults will be fast-tracked for orange jumpsuits. Sanctions have proven equally effective, as an early spate of statue toppling abruptly ended after the president tacked a ten-year prison term to the offense.
Twenty-something street insurgents may also be suffering from organic fatigue. The mob is filled with newly minted college grads, turned out of higher education with deep-seated grievances embedded by militant professors revered for their anti-capitalist classroom rants. The Class of 2020 matriculated into a summer job market destroyed by the pandemic, wiping out even the lowest-paying service occupations. The most virulent took to the streets. A few of the horde earned a few dollars as part of Antifa’s mobile phalanx, moving from city to city, gaslighting sympathizers to action and inspiring the local disadvantaged to loot. Months later, their charge to throw hard objects, break windows, burn trashcans, scream bloody murder, and antagonize cops for days on end in hot protective gear has been both exhausting and increasingly toxic to future career prospects.
If current trends hold, BLM and Antifa will be but a fraction of the hundreds of protests anticipated by year’s end, with most focusing upon state COVID lockdowns, pro-police marches, 2nd Amendment rallies, a U.S. Supreme Court nomination, and the presidential election outcome. Their bottle-tossing and incendiary antics may have calmed for the present, but the well-stocked and financed city chapters of BLM, along with their Antifa cohort, will act impulsively when triggered by cop-on-black shootings and adverse judicial outcomes to those events.
Plummeting support, lethargy, and the fear of job-killing arrests and prison may be thinning the BLM ranks of its majority white Democrats. This is no time for cops to rest on their haunches, however. If we turn a page in the dog-eared, 60s-era guidebooks on revolutionizing America, we now find ourselves at a flash point.
A half century ago, the granddads and moms of today’s firebrands, frustrated with the failings and risks of street protests, abandoned the Students for a Democratic Society and joined the Weathermen. Black Panthers ditched their leather coats and berets and became the Black Liberation Army. An obscure New England-based prison reform movement went underground to form the United Freedom Front.
What followed in the 70s and early 80s put the FBI back on their heels. It took a decade of rage, thousands of bombings, and 35 dead cops to put it all down with a series of botched federal prosecutions that brought few to justice. If the past is prologue, the recent arrests in the Wisconsin plot to kidnap the governor offer a first whiff of that transfiguration, with likely more to come from protest groups of all ideological stripes.
Rick Fuentes is a working-class conservative with a Ph.D. who survived four decades in law enforcement.