Riot season

Stephen W. Browne

I've got the feeling I should say something pithy and profound about the riots gripping our major cities. I'd really like to wait until I hear back from friends I trust who are actually going to have a look, but I'm afraid if I wait too long something awful is going to happen and I won't be able to say, 'Told ya.'

I've seen a few large-scale demonstrations. I was present at the largest demonstration of the 60s era, July 4, 1970, at the Washington Monument when Bob Hope had organized a Support America Day and Abbie Hoffmann called for a counter-demonstration.

In the late 90s I marched with the people of Sofia, Bulgaria down the yellow brick road in the demonstrations that brought down the last coalition government. We marched past the presidential residence where President Peter Stoyanov stood on the balcony and cheered us on waving the double V for victory hand sign.

And for months I marched with the people of Belgrade, Yugoslavia in the demonstrations against the second-to-last communist tyranny in Europe, past thousands of heavily armed troops. Every, single, day.

But with an estimated 17% of the city population on the streets every night I saw ZERO vandalism, beyond slogans on walls. And none of that was of the 'Eff the pigs!' kind. Perhaps it was the virtue of the people and perhaps it was the presence of armed men we knew were waiting on orders to fire on the crowd.

So I've logged more demonstration time that most in this country. Until now at least. This has been going on for a while now and doesn't look like it's winding down.

Some observations, opinions, and questions.

In Portland residents report the disturbances are confined to a very small area around the federal building. A small (low hundreds) group of very violent people are responsible for the vandalism.

Opinions seem divided among people who are frantic with worry that a hastily-assembled largely-ineffective federal force means martial law and looming fascism, and those who are a tad perturbed the mob tried to barricade a lot of people in the federal building and set it on fire.

In Seattle rioters set fire to a Starbucks because it's racist or something. A Starbucks located on the ground floor of an apartment building.

In Chicago 18 cops got sent to the hospital. Antifa types were caught on drone footage breaking away from the peaceful demonstrators, changing into Black Block clothing and passing out improvised weapons while concealing themselves with umbrellas.

Improvised weapons included frozen water bottles and PVC spears concealed as banner poles. You make a spear from PVC pipe by cutting it at a sharp angle so it looks like a hypodermic needle.

Ancient peoples do it with bamboo. It makes a big wound that hard to close.

Three cops in Portland may have permanent eye damage from lasers.

Commercial grade fireworks have been used in several places. The kind which require a license from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to purchase, possess, and use. So, federal offense. And where are they getting them?

There's been shooting. Negligent discharges and someone who got stupid and approached someone with a rifle and found out he wasn't the only one armed.

OK we've seen worse but not for a while. Throughout the '60s and '70s there were about 1,700 bombs set by groups like the Weather Underground.

But it is very likely something awful is going to happen soon. Maybe from arson, maybe a Kent State type event.

What then?