The Nation’s Protest Pandemic

When protests took place on April 26 in Lansing, Michigan, law enforcement stood by idly as heavily armed dissenters protested the governor’s decision to continue to limit the reopening of some businesses in response to COVID-19.


President Donald Trump sided with the protesters and took to Twitter to voice his support on May 1, stating: “The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”


The black community also wants their lives back again, safely, but their protests continue to be met with a completely different response. The same sympathy from President Trump and nonviolence from law enforcement is far from present in recent protests in response to the loss of George Floyd’s life after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was recorded kneeling on his neck, taking the life of Floyd.


On the contrary, in response to the protest in Minneapolis on May 26, President Trump tweeted: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” 


By the way, the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” according to NPR, was originally used in 1967 when “Miami police Chief Walter Headley used the phrase ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’ during hearings about crime in the Florida city, invoking angry reactions from civil rights leaders, according to a news report at the time.”


According to professor Clarence Lusane of Howard University, “ ‘The NAACP and other black organizations had for years complained about the treatment of the black community by Miami police. At this hearing, in discussing how he would deal with what he called crime and thugs and threats by young black people, he issued this statement that the reason Miami had not had any riots up to that point, was because of the message he had sent out that ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ ” Not only this but, “ ‘He had a long history of bigotry against the black community.’ ”


So while President Trump has shown support for bringing justice to George Floyd, it means nothing, and does not go far when no support is shown for the protesters that are demanding for change through the Black Lives Matter movement. President Trump labeled protesters for the movement as thugs, while the armed, white protesters remained “good people.” 


When white protesters held weapons at their protests, they were met with support and understanding. Black protesters on the other hand were met with threats. Although looting and destruction of property has occurred, something that shouldn’t necessarily be encouraged, this is not something that is unique only to the protests happening now, and is not just one-sided. 


Take the protest in Philadelphia in 2018 after the Eagles won the Super Bowl. “…some overzealous fans smashed windows, climbed traffic lights and trashed some convenience stores.” In addition, “Department store windows were smashed. An awning of a hotel was destroyed when people decided to climb on top of it. In short, it was chaos. All over a football team.”


You read that correctly. A football team. So it’s not just one-sided. It’s not just the black protesters, and it’s not just the Black Lives Matter movement. But those who hypocritically portray it as so ignore these instances to keep the narrative in place, and we didn’t see the same backlash when white protesters were destroying property back then.



President Trump calls for change when his agenda is being threatened by face masks and closed businesses, but no change seems to be called for the continuous injustices set against the black community when their lives are at stake every day. Yet these apparent violent protests led by black protesters is not as violent as it may seem, at least on the part of black protesters. 


Many peaceful protests and instances of the police or white citizens inciting the violence continue to be ignored by those who only want to bash black protesters. According to CNN, “Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Saturday that the majority of protesters in the city were peaceful marchers who were expressing ‘our collective grief,’ and that any acts of looting and violence came later in the day from a ‘ragtag group.’ ”


And when NYPD officers drive a truck into a crowd of protesters behind barriers, when undercover cops or white people are the ones instigating the violence that is blamed on black protesters who want to do so peacefully, this is when it becomes obvious that our priorities are not straight, and that little care is given about the countless black lives that are being lost. 


What starts out peaceful can easily turn violent, especially when that violence it is incited by the police, and it hasn’t happened on just one occasion. According to NPR, “law enforcement officers deployed tear gas and shot rubber bullets to forcefully disperse peaceful protesters…apparently to clear the way for the president to walk to St. John’s Church, where he posed briefly for photographers, holding a Bible.” 


But rather than recognizing the part that white people and individuals in the police force play in these violent actions, everything is done to keep the narrative that black people are the only ones to blame.


Countless voice that ‘violence is not the way to go about it,’ that ‘it would be supported if it was peaceful.’ Yet in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick protested police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem, the peaceful protest was met with outrage instead of support.



There are those who rave about their right to protest when it comes to the Second Amendment, abortion, and more, but when the Black Lives Matter movement does the same for the loss of lives, it is not met with the same reaction. So when nothing changed with peaceful protests, some felt that they had to resort to more destructive measures. 


I’m not here to claim that violence is the answer or to speak for what is right or wrong, and I’m not in a position to, as a white person. Being white automatically puts me in a position of privilege as I will never be able to understand the pain and hardships that the people of the black community face simply because of the color of their skin. I know that innocent police officers and local businesses who have played no part in the violence are also being harmed, something that is not justified. But I can point out that the response to the destruction of property and the harm to police officers is received much differently than the destruction of black lives, and the murder of George Floyd.


So I will say that looting and destruction of property may seem justified when people seem to care more about the destruction of property than the destruction of countless black lives. At such a heartbreaking time, some are resorting to what they feel is the only answer to getting any change to the injustice that has happened once again. Not only this, but there are those who are protesting peacefully, and yet are being forced to take the blame for the violent actions that are occurring at the hands of police forces or others outside forces. Because as I mentioned earlier, it is not always the black protesters who are starting the destruction. 


Because of this, I will not condemn these people for what they feel they must do to stop these injustices from continuing. Instead, I will try to understand how the black community must be feeling death after death, peaceful protest after peaceful protest, and when they may feel fear every day from things that those who are white do not have to fear because of skin color. When these peaceful protests have done nothing, it only makes sense that they feel like they can now only resort to more intense measures in order to make their voices heard. 


Is every cop bad? Of course not. Do all lives matter? Yes. But that’s not the point right now when there is an obvious flaw in the system. It’s not that all lives don’t matter and it’s not that all cops are bad. It is simply that black people face more discrimination and injustice than others at this point in time and that there is in fact a flaw in the police system that has yet to be recognized for the problem that it is. 


So rather than speaking for what is right or wrong, it is more important to understand and recognize that our system is valuing white lives more than the black lives that are being lost. The damage to property that can be replaced is being valued more than the physical harm being caused to the protesters of the Black Lives Matter movement and the countless black victims that have been lost due to this system. Because apparently if and when white people do the same, it is their right, but when black people do so, it is uncalled for.


I, of course, can’t speak for every protest that has been happening because it’s impossible to know every detail during such a chaotic time. There are peaceful protests, there are violent protests. There are protests where police are causing more harm, and protests where the police and protesters stand together. 


But as a collective, it can’t be denied that the way the protests by the black community demanding change for the countless deaths that continue to occur are treated so differently than those that are organized by a majority of white people, and that do the same.


And when it comes down to it, it is more about the hypocrisy. Anyone has a right to protest for any injustice they feel has been done. The people who gathered to protest wearing masks or those calling for businesses to reopen had every right to do so. But the response when protests were held in honor of George Floyd and to call for change against police brutality, has been completely different.


The real issue arises when people have more of a problem with property being destroyed than members of the black community losing their lives to racial prejudices time and time again.