Looking Back at That Day in 2013 When Huntington Beach Was the Nation’s Baltimore

Finally sick of law enforcement not letting them do whatever they wanted, rioters took to the streets and trashed them.

Finally sick of the injustice of law enforcement not letting them do whatever it was they wanted to do, young rioters took to the streets and trashed them.

Warning: the following video is satire, part of a news broadcast by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in the wake of one of those days when Orange County made the national news.  Those of you who cannot process satire — especially if your screen name rhymes with “rallygag” — should not attempt to watch this without trained supervision.

The article reminding us of this, from Upworthy, is also worth reading.  Here’s a taste, where they juxtapose at you:

[versus]

  • Meanwhile, the news media is notorious for sympathetically portraying white men and women suspected of crimes (including murder).
  • Take James Eagan Holmes. He was responsible for the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, shooting that left 12 people dead and many more injured — and was noted as a “brilliant science student.”
  • Elliot Rodger, who killed six people plus himself and injured 14 others in Santa Barbara, California, in 2014, was described as soft-spoken, polite, a gentleman.”

I’m on record as being an advocate of non-violent protest.  Orange County, some may recall, had the longest continual Occupy occupation in the world from October 2011 through March 2012 — and we kept it strictly non-violent.  We wanted to keep the message on unpunished Wall Street theft from our economy rather than (as happened in most other places) turning the media focus to an argument over our First Amendment rights to protest — an argument that, at least here in Orange County, we were bound to lose.  One main result was that while clashes between police and protesters in Los Angeles and Long Beach and San Diego generally made the news … our more substantive and on-topic protests did not.

Here’s the truth: violence often, in many ways, works.  That’s why Israel bombed the living crap out of mostly civilians in the Gaza Strip last summer.  It worked.  And they paid no real price.  That’s why we invaded Iraq — because violence works — right up until it doesn’t.  That’s why various chest-thumping politicians want to go to war with Iran.  Violence!  That’s why we carpet bombed Vietnam.  Violence!  That’s why we use drones.  We believe violence works!

So if you’re a critic of the violence in Baltimore on the grounds that “violence is never the answer” — I have to ask when you came to that bizarre conclusion.  Were you saying that when a young man was shot to death in Ferguson?  Violence sure worked there!  How about when 12-year-old Tamar Rice was killed in Cleveland?  Violence effectively ended that “threat”!  How about when there was a spate of highly questionable shootings in Anaheim?  Wasn’t that violence?  The choking death of Eric Garner: violent or not?

How about when Freddie Gray died under mysterious circumstances in a Baltimore jail — and the one cop who wanted to speak up about it was silenced?  You know — seems like it was only last week.  Violence?

I prefer the peaceful protests of the weekend to the violent — in the way that the Huntington Beach riot was violent, rather than in the way that the above killings and acts of destruction were violent — response that began yesterday.  But the small number of protesters that triggered it may have come to the conclusion that the corrupt and repressive longstanding police culture of Baltimore — read that link — was not going to be fixed by non-violent protest.  (Or it may not have come from that refined sort of rational calculus.)  Anyway, they broke things and burned things.  And the police and observers were thrilled, thrilled to change the subject from the object of protest, thrilled to take an unequivocal stand against “violence.”

And that, of course, was bullshit.  Their stand against violence was not “unequivocal” unless they were prepared to clean out the Baltimore Police Department and prosecute those who have broken state and federal law.  And they aren’t.

Here, for all of the sanctimonious pronouncements of yesterday that “violence never works,” is an explanation of how and why — and when and where, which does not include Orange County — violence responses to repression can work: because they increase the cost of society’s response to the protesters.  Eventually, the costs get so high that taxes must be raised, services must be cut — and eventually so high that Curt Pringle and the Building Trades can no longer get money for new construction projects.  (This is the point where things “get real.”)

The violent youth of Baltimore are trying to raise the cost of governing them so high that they are left alone by police.  This is not a good policy, in my opinion, and I do not endorse it.  But if I were a Black kid in Baltimore, I can easily imagine my thinking otherwise.

You know who this “raise the costs” tactic worked for?  Cliven Bundy, the robber-rancher of rural Nevada.  He got lots of people to assemble near his ranch for the purpose of killing government agents if they “invaded” — and the government backed off.

I was, on these pages, shocked and outraged by the government’s turning tail.  (I think that our conflict over her having gotten to the point of supporting Bundy may have been the final straw that led my friend Inge to leave this site, where her angry populist writings are still among the most popular in our archives.)  But the lesson is not lost: violence worked.  And you, American citizen, are pretty much OK with that.  You’ve let that topic lie.

So, if it worked for Cliven Bundy, who was threatening to kill law enforcement officers, why can’t it work for rock-throwing and CVS-burning youth in Baltimore?  It’s because we’re more committed to not letting them win.  It’s because this country has always been more tolerant of the prospect of thievery of public assets by the wealthy than it has of the prospect of peasant revolt — or of slave revolt.

So don’t tut-tut to these protesters in Baltimore about how “violence is never the answer, violence never works.”  They ain’t dumb; they know that that’s not true.  They know that it’s just not likely to be allowed to work for them.

Protest by the disempowered here is generally given a choice between being ineffectual and being counterproductive.  I’ll generally go with the risk of being ineffectual, because a focused non-violent protest can often accomplish much.  Elizabeth Warren would not likely be where and what she is today without support of focused members of the Occupy movement.  But I can certainly understand why others with less faith in incremental change decide otherwise.

“Those who made peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable,” said John F. Kennedy.  If you don’t like violence, work hard — right now — for real, rapid, and substantive change.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)