I just watched the press conference in which the Democratic Governor of Minnesota, Mayor of Minneapolis, and Mayor of St. Paul all denounced racism, called for justice for George Floyd and the community, and jointly announced the calling out of the National Guard to suppress the civil violence now taking place in Minneapolis.
I then watched Keith Ellison, the Democratic state Attorney General–yes, THAT Keith Ellison, the DSA-connected big Sanders supporter–second this announcement, and say that HE shares the belief that the incendiary violence taking place is being precipitated by a small number of people NOT part of the BLM community in Minneapolis. (His description of some of the “provocateurs” sounded a lot like Black Bloc, but he did not say this, and I am only reporting what I heard him say).
The situation is dangerous.
The underlying injustice, vulnerability and police brutality—the underlying structural violence— is real and must be addressed. The vast majority of the protestors are trying to address these things through public protest within the limits of legality. They must be supported and protected. At the same time, no responsible public official anywhere can be expected to stand by when buildings are being torched and police being attacked and only talk about the broader concerns of justice. Any responsible public official, and especially those committed to equal justice under the law, can be expected to uphold the law. This is why Ellison, and the very progressive Mayors of the Twin Cities–the mayor of St. Paul is a progressive young African-American man–are calling for the restoration of civil order.
They know that the restoration of order does NOT mean the achievement of justice. They also know that justice will not be achieved through mass violence—even if protest that sometimes exceeds the bounds of “civility” is a necessary part of the struggle for justice. And that if the violence persists, the people who will most seriously be harmed, physically and economically, are those most vulnerable–the very people in the community who are rightly demanding justice.