The symbiotic relationship between peaceful protesters and violent agitators

posted at 1:21 pm on February 3, 2017 by John Sexton

A student reporter who witnessed the Berkeley riots says he heard people in the “peaceful” crowd who were glad that violent agitators had succeeded in shutting down a conservative speaker’s appearance. From the NY Times:

It was clear early on that the majority of violent protesters most likely were not from the campus. Still, in the aftermath, I heard people say that peaceful demonstrations would not have succeeded in preventing Mr. Yiannopoulos from speaking.

In order to fully appreciate the significance of this, it’s necessary to put it in context. Almost immediately after riots engulfed the campus there were report that the “mostly peaceful” crowd had been infiltrated by a group of violent outsiders. These outsiders, dressed in black and wearing masks, were said to be distinct from the majority of the crowd. They were young but probably not students. So the narrative being built was that all the negative behavior was the result of unknown outsiders.

As Ed wrote earlier today, Robert Reich is taking this narrative even further by going on television and saying there are rumors these outside agitators were actually conservatives who were carrying out a “false flag” attack to make the other protesters look bad. But as the student reporter points out, the violent protesters seemed to have the same enemies as the rest of the crowd:

Until Wednesday, I never felt in danger during a protest. Around 7 p.m. I saw a huddle of people yelling at one another. As more people surrounded them, a burning red trucker’s hat was held up on a stick. There were reports that another student wearing what appeared to be a “Make America Great Again” hat was severely injured.

Then I saw someone wearing all black walk up to a student wearing a suit and say, “You look like a Nazi.” The student was confused, but before he could reply, the black-clad person pepper-sprayed him and hit him on the back with a rod.

The victim of that attack, who was Muslim, ran off fearing another attack would follow.

Contrary to suggestions in the media that these groups are completely distinct, the people who came to beat “Nazis” literally and the people who came to beat them symbolically aren’t at odds with one another. On the contrary, the “peaceful” protesters and the black bloc have a symbiotic relationship. The black bloc benefits by having a large mass of protesters from which to launch their attacks and then quickly retreat to anonymity. For them the mass of protesters is a shield. Meanwhile, the “peaceful” protesters benefit because marching and chanting doesn’t have the same immediate impact as breaking windows and beating people in the street. To them, the black bloc is a sword.

No doubt each would condemn the other if a camera was put in their face, but in practice they cooperate. That’s why, when violence got the job done at Berkeley, some of the “peaceful” protesters recognized it and were grateful.


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