From Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times:
So many things make America combustible right now: mass unemployment, a pandemic that’s laid bare murderous health and economic inequalities, teenagers with little to do, police violence, right-wingers itching for a second civil war and a president eager to pour gasoline on every fire. “I think we’re indeed in a moment where things are going to get a lot more tense before they get more peaceful,” said the University of Michigan historian Heather Ann Thompson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her 2016 book “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.”
Already the Minneapolis protests have spread to other cities….
These demonstrations were sparked by specific instances of police violence, but they also take place in a context of widespread health and economic devastation that’s been disproportionately borne by people of color, especially those who are poor. “Sociologists have studied collective behavior, urban unrest for decades, and I think it’s safe to say that the consensus view is that it’s never just about a precipitating incident that resulted in the unrest,” Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences at U.C.L.A., told me. “It’s always a collection of factors that make the situation ripe for collective behavior, unrest and mobilization.”
Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s progressive attorney general, told me that [many people] “have been cooped up for two months, and so now they’re in a different space and a different place. They’re restless. Some of them have been unemployed, some of them don’t have rent money, and they’re angry, they’re frustrated.”
That frustration is likely to build, because the economic ruin from the pandemic is just beginning. In some states, moratoriums on evictions have ended or will soon. The expanded unemployment benefits passed by Congress as part of the CARES Act run out at the end of July. State budgets have been ravaged, and Republicans in Washington have so far refused to come to states’ aid, meaning we’ll likely soon see painful cutbacks in public jobs and services.
“Where people are broke, and there doesn’t appear to be any assistance, there’s no leadership, there’s no clarity about what is going to happen, this creates the conditions for anger, rage, desperation and hopelessness, which can be a very volatile combination,” said Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor of African-American studies at Princeton. “I would not at all be surprised to see this kind of reaction elsewhere over the course of the next several months.”
But if America feels like a tinderbox at the moment, it’s not just because of pressure coming from the dispossessed. On Wednesday, the journalists Robert Evans and Jason Wilson published a fascinating and disturbing look at the “boogaloo” movement — “an extremely online update of the militia movement” — on the investigative website Bellingcat. “The ‘boogaloo Bois’ expect, even hope, that the warmer weather will bring armed confrontations with law enforcement, and will build momentum towards a new civil war in the United States,” Evans and Wilson write… [they report that the “movement” has been facilitated by, of course, Facebook].
People associated with the subculture had a significant presence at the lockdown protests, but some, motivated by hatred of the police and a love of bedlam, took part in the Minneapolis demonstrations as well….
Most American presidents, faced with such domestic instability, would seek de-escalation. This is one reason civil unrest, for all the damage it can cause to communities where it breaks out, has often led to reform. Change has come, said Thompson, when activists have “created a situation where the people in power actually had to act in order to bring back some meaningful public peace.”
Now, however, we have a president who doesn’t much care about warding off chaos. “In every other time when protest has reached a fever pitch because injustices very much needed to be remedied, the country ultimately tried to find a new equilibrium, tried to address it enough to reach some sort of peace,” said Thompson. “We now have a leadership that’s been crystal clear that it’s perfectly OK if we descend into utter civil war.”
Some of the tropes are familiar, but we haven’t seen this movie before. No one knows how dark things could get, only that, in the T—- era, scenes that seem nightmarish one day come to look almost normal the next.
From The Hill:
St. Paul, Minn., Mayor Melvin Carter (D) said Saturday that all of the protesters who were arrested in his city the previous night were from out of state as demonstrations in and around Minneapolis over George Floyd’s death descended into violence.
Carter said there was not a high number of arrests in St. Paul on Friday night due in part to a curfew but suggested that out-of-staters were behind much of the agitation fueling the violence.
“… We didn’t make an enormous number of arrests, but every single person we arrested last night, I’m told, was from out of state. What we are seeing right now is a group of people who are not from here,” Carter said at a press conference.
“As I talk to my friends who have been in this movement for a very long time, who wake up in this movement every day, and I ask them what they’re seeing, what they’re feeling, what they’re hearing, to a person, I hear them say, ‘We don’t know these folks. We don’t know these folks who are agitating. We don’t know these folks who are inciting violence. We don’t know these folks who are first in to break a window,’” he added.
There are protests around the country with no violence at all. Those won’t be in the news (or on blogs) as much as the ones where there’s violence. Still, we’re looking at a long, hot, probably angry summer.
With fringe elements of whatever political persuasion possibly looking to make trouble, we shouldn’t assume who is behind any violence that occurs. We can assume, however, that the president, who just made up some crap about “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” being deployed at the White House, and who has the obscure Insurrection Act of 1807 (which allows him to call in the military) at his disposal, will only make things worse.