Ongoing mass demonstrations in the United States and worldwide protesting racism and police brutality compel us to better understand the types of violence that can take place during protests. What roles do agents provocateurs play in sabotaging nonviolent movements? How can movements prepare in order to counter these spoilers? What counts as "violence"? How does violence impact the success of a movement to achieve its goals of rights, justice and freedom? This blog series takes on these difficult yet timely questions.
There is no denying the drama of the worldwide mass demonstrations against systemic racism generally, discriminatory policing particularly, and George Floyd’s murder specifically. For weeks and weeks, it has unfolded in both predictable and surprising ways. In my experience, honed from decades in the news media, newsrooms begin to lose interest in such phenomena after about two weeks. […]
We are in a new period of activism with great forces exerting pressures on all of us—those who seek justice and an end to police killing unarmed black people, those who are severely hurt by this godawful COVID-19 plague, those whose small businesses have been smashed and looted, and those simply afraid to make any move anywhere right now.. […]
After my July 18 article on agents provocateurs was posted, I heard from a young activist who wrote, “Loved your article. It has surprised me how many people in my social media bubble support black bloc/antifa stuff.” She is not alone. The blackbloc/antifa folks have found a positive and strategic sounding way to market their negative and unstrategic approach to activism, which voluntarily does the dirty work of agents provocateurs. Their term of choice is “diversity of tactics.” Sounds smart, right? […]
In my June 20 post, “Let’s Get Strategic,” I critique the argument for mixing violent and nonviolent tactics in our movements, or what is often euphemistically called a “diversity of tactics.” In this post, I want to add that as an activist, I also have never seen anyone promoting violent tactics get real enough to mention, let alone discuss, the agent provocateur problem that has long bedeviled popular resistance movements. […]
I recently read Ben Case’s article "Beyond Violence and Nonviolence," published in ROAR Magazine on June 5, 2017. In it, Case argues that using a diversity of violent and nonviolent tactics can increase the effectiveness of movements struggling against oppression. As someone working on a forthcoming website about the strategic value of maintaining nonviolent discipline in our movements, it might surprise people that I actually agree with many of Case’s points. […]