What the rioters really want

Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council. This article appeared in the Washington Examiner on August 25, 2020.

George Washington was so essential to the founding of our country that historians have called him “the indispensable man.” His courage, leadership, and deep convictions about freedom, honor, and self-government sustained a revolution that seemed on the verge of failure more often than not.

Another George, last name Floyd, earlier this year died as a Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck. The brutality experienced by Floyd should never happen in America. His killing provoked rightful outrage and many peaceful protests. In Norfolk, Virginia, for example, nearly 100 area churches, both predominantly black and white, joined together in June to march, pray, and listen to messages about the need for racial justice. The city’s police chief joined in the march. As Pastor David McBride of the area’s New Life Church said, “Today, I’m filled with hope.”

But these voices of hope are being silenced and overshadowed by violent radicals. When, earlier this month, six people in Los Angeles toppled and spray-painted a statue of Washington that stood outside City Hall, the true hand of these “protesters” was unveiled. They were not angry about the murder of Floyd. They were not protesting the problems with our criminal justice system, which Family Research Council has been active in addressing. Rather, these dangerous men and women pulled down Washington’s statue to represent their desire to unmake the America we have known.

Riots and violence have become commonplace in many of the country’s major cities. Although they began under the pretext of wanting racial justice, the protesters have begun unmasking their true aims.

  • In Seattle, Marxist-oriented city council member Kshwama Sawant has called the police department “racist” and demanded a 50% cut in police funding. When, this month, the council cut roughly 100 police positions and substantially reduced the salaries of top police officials, Chief Carmen Best, the first black woman to serve as chief, resigned. Sawant is unapologetic about her true agenda: “We are coming to dismantle this deeply oppressive, racist, sexist, violent, utterly bankrupt system of capitalism — this police state. We cannot and will not stop until we overthrow it and replace it with a world based instead on solidarity, genuine democracy, and equality — a socialist world.”
  • A few days ago in Portland, Oregon, “more than 60 emergency calls to police went unheeded overnight in Portland as officers were preoccupied with hundreds of demonstrators downtown and were pelted by rocks. On the 80th consecutive night of protests, the Portland Police Bureau declared a riot around midnight Sunday after a crowd of hundreds had blocked traffic for three hours … and engaged in ‘violent, tumultuous conduct.'”
  • Rioting in Chicago has gotten so out of hand that “officers will be working 12-hour shifts with no days off ‘until further notice,'” according to police Superintendent David Brown. Jack Lavin, CEO of Chicago’s Chamber of Commerce, says that “hundreds” of businesses have been affected by the ongoing looting, which is “causing a ripple effect that is being felt by workers, tourists, and the hospitality industry.”

These are just a few examples of the ferocity of the radical left. Endangering lives, ruining small businesses, and creating profound social division are, for these fascist agitators, a small price to pay if they can achieve their real goals — destroying free enterprise, crushing dissent, and imposing an oppressive national government.
Even traditional liberals are dismayed by the “anti-fascist,” or “antifa,” movement. Peter Beinart, for example, observes that the “anti-fascists” have “granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not. That authority rests on no democratic foundation. Unlike the politicians they revile, the men and women of antifa cannot be voted out of office. Generally, they don’t even disclose their names.”

In his will, the father of our country freed all the slaves he personally owned. And he did so emphatically: He said he “expressly forbid the Sale, or transportation out of (Virginia), of any Slave I may die possessed of, under any pretence whatsoever.” Should he have owned other human beings? Of course not. But in the end, his conscience won out.

The conscience of our nation was moved by the murder of the other George, George Floyd. New steps are being taken to foster racial healing in America’s churches. There is renewed emphasis on policing reform and the use of force. Ordinary Americans of all races are reaching out to one another in friendship.

Meanwhile, as the vicious attacks on the streets of our great cities show, their perpetrators don’t want justice. They want chaos and fear and upheaval. In a word, they want revolution. Yet as Gen. Washington demonstrated, a revolution that endures must itself be founded on enduring principles, those that elevate human dignity, not crush it through riots and hatred.

You can topple a statue, but in the long run, you can’t alter history or gain justice through ruthlessness. All you’ll get is the very repression you claim to be against.