The “mostly peaceful” social-justice movement that sprung up across the country after the death of George Floyd perpetrated all manner of mostly peaceful violence over the past few days—from the destructive to the gruesome.
In Washington, D.C., on Thursday, there was a massive Black Lives Matter riot during which vandals set fires, destroyed physical property, and hurt at least two police officers. Police found weapons including knives, fireworks, and chemical irritants among the crowd. Saturday, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Antifa gangs carrying inverted American flags tore through an Apple store, a Whole Foods, and a real-estate office. They smashed windows and put up graffiti including “Murder Bezos,” “Die Yuppy,” and “FTP,” for “F—k The Police.” On Sunday, in Seattle, “protestors” dressed in black and wearing gas masks showed up at the Seattle Police Office Guild headquarters where they set off explosives, threw rocks at cops, and broke windows. Six officers were injured and some suffered burns. Not to be outdone, Black Lives Matter and Antifa members on Sunday night in Portland dragged a man from his truck and beat him unconscious in the middle of the street.
As I say in the headline of my article for the September issue of COMMENTARY, “Yes, This Is a Revolution.” What we’re witnessing, day after day, is revolutionary violence—and it is tearing up the country at a furious pace. It destroys businesses, livelihoods, and neighborhoods. It has also resulted in numerous deaths.
In my article, I go through some of the reasons that we, as a nation, are not taking the revolution as seriously as we should. Most of these reasons come down to our inaccurate understanding of what revolutions actually look like. Americans in the 21st century tend to think that what’s happening here is tamer or less serious than what’s gone on in revolutions past. But it’s not. One example, not addressed in the piece, is the relative youth of the revolutionaries. You can see from video footage of the incidents above that the perpetrators of this violence look like teenagers and young adults. And many of the most violent moments of this revolution have involved gangs that could easily pass for teenagers. This makes it easy for some to dismiss the revolutionary violence as just another mode of the senseless destruction often found among young people in groups.
Well, that’s a historical mistake. The Red Guard of Mao’s Cultural revolution wasn’t made up of seasoned military men or lifelong ideologues; it consisted of high-school and university students. They flocked to the revolutionary cause and repurposed their young lives in its service. The fact that they were teenagers didn’t stop them from killing thousands of Chinese and ruining the lives of a great many more. In fact, the viciousness of these young terrorists became a particular problem for Mao once the revolution was established and he found a remedy in shipping them out to the countryside to live with peasants.
And for the record, the Red Guard were also “mostly peaceful”—statistically speaking. They were more than 10 million strong, but only a minority carried out the worst offenses of the Cultural Revolution. And some did, in fact, speak out against the violence of the others. To which any discerning mind would reply, “Who cares? As a force, they were monstrous.” Most soldiers in combat zones don’t fire their weapons. Perhaps, then, war is mostly peaceful, too.
Neither the age of the revolutionaries nor the peace-loving allies who cheer them on change the fact that this is a revolution. And until it’s recognized as one, it will continue to grow in size and ferocity.