Political Violence (Right and Left)

I am in the process of drafting a policy position for CIVPAC on the hot button issue of political violence in the U.S. In the process, I will have to address the riots at the U.S. Capital on January 6, 2021 and the the violence that accompanied the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in many U.S. cities in 2020. Many will suggest that this is a case of comparing apples and oranges. But apples and oranges are both fruits and both of these events were, to some degree, violence committed to serve a political end. From a legal point of view, the January 6 riots were the greater threat because the intent was to interfere with the Constitutional process for formalizing the election of the President. From a property and loss of life perspective, the riots that accompanied the BLM protests were more significant.

There are apologists on both ends of the political spectrum who have attempted to make excuses for this violence. My own opinion was that the violence in both cases was inexcusable. That begs the question of: when, if ever, is political violence excusable? The answer, in a democratic society with ample opportunities for peaceful protests and redress of grievances, ought to be never. Historical cases of justified violent revolutions lacked these characteristics. If anyone is aware of cases of justified political violence in democratic and open societies, please post a comment.

There have been cases where protest has, justifiably, risen to the level of civil disobedience, but that is different from political violence.

As a side note, I don’t think it is ever fair or productive to characterize speech, or silence, as violence. This kind of rhetoric only serves to deprive the word “violence” of meaning. Some kinds of speech can be immoral, unwise, or even illegal, but speech is never violence.

Let me know your thoughts.

Leave a Reply