After a New York grand jury decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD police officer who held Eric Garner in a chokehold and killed him on the heels of a Missouri grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, protests have been organized over major cities all over the nation. For the past week, there have been demonstrations not only in Garner's name, but for Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and generally to call attention to the alarmingly high number of black people who have been killed, wrongfully treated and prejudiced against by police officers. More importantly, arguably, than just rallying in support of justice for these individuals, these protests are in response to the pervasive tension between people of color and police forces across the country. That, in a woefully concise way, is what is going on.
Sounds like a really valid reason to take to the streets, if ever there was one, right? ("Yes" is the correct answer, by the way.) Some reactions to these recent protests, not surprisingly, have been less than supportive. If nothing else, the actions of the demonstrators have been heavily scrutinized, with media and government officials watching closely, and readily making arrests. There has been constant examination and speculation over whether or not the methods employed by protesters were out of line. It almost feels like we've replaced talking about the reasons why people are out there with constant criticism of what they're doing out there (which, by the way, is exactly how the issues at the center of protests just pushed aside; character attacks of the people who advocate for an issue are used both to distract from it, and to erode its validity).
You have to wonder how these protests would be received by the public and its leaders if the people at the front of the line were white, and if the issues-at-hand were centered around the lives of white people. Would we exchange words like "looting" and "violence" with "impassioned" and "moral outrage"? One blogger felt like examining the same question when he recount on Twitter all the ridiculous things that white people have rioted over in the past.
Let's take a look:
1. The Giants Winning The World Series In 2012
This is what happened in San Francisco when they won something. They were rampantly destroying things because they were happy. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that people lit fireworks and climbed up on top of Muni buses and other people's cars. And this was after they'd already rioted in 2010 over the same damn thing.
Here's a quote that will especially get your blood boiling, from police Sargent Tad Yamaguchi, in light of anticipating more protests after the 2010 one: "We're going to help the partiers party. As long as they're lawful and having fun, we're all for it."
2. Pumpkin Fest Riot In Keene, New Hampshire In 2014
Bonfires in the street, overturned cars, property damage, all in the name of...pumpkins. They literally were just destroying things because pumpkins.
"It's just like a rush. You're revolting from the cops," said Kevin French, 18, to The Keene Sentinel, "It's a blast to do things that you're not supposed to do."
3. A Man Who Ignores Sexual Abuse Gets Fired From Penn State In 2011
Students demonstrated by stampeding, turning over a news van, tearing down lamp posts, and throwing rocks and fireworks at the police, and shouting, "We are Penn State." They were mad because of the firing of Joe Paterna, the football coach that allegedly was aware that assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually assaulted young boys and didn't say anything.
Mike Clark, an 18-year-old student at the time, told the New York Times, “I think the point people are trying to make is the media is responsible for JoePa going down."
That's one way to make your point.
4. Surfing Competition In 2013
People rioted by damaging street signs and vehicles, overturning portable bathrooms, and fighting after the U.S. Open For Surfing in Huntington, California last July. Reason? Your guess is as good as mine.
5. Spring Fest Block Party At James Madison University In 2010
I'm especially embarrassed to write about this one because I attended the university at the time. Although I wasn't at the event, what was described as a "fun, chill block party" that all the Virginia schools congregated to every year quickly turned into a riot where people were burning dumpsters, throwing beer bottles, damaging vehicles, and assaulting cops (including throwing beer bottles at a police dog). It took 200 police to break it up.
6. When a Football Coach Left Tennessee In 2010
Former University of Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin left to coach for USC and prompted a riot where students defaced property and burned mattresses and graffiti'd threatening messages all over the school for Kiffin. The entire campus erupted into anarchy because one guy changed his job. WOW.
7. When a Hockey Team Lost In 2011
The Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins in 2011, and riots cropped up in Vancouver where angry hockey fans set cars on fire and looted stores, and then threw debris at officers who tried to break it up. (Is anyone else starting to see a theme here? People get ridiculously pissed off about sports.)
8. When a Baseball Team Won In 2004
The Red Sox unexpectedly beat the Yankees in The World Series in 2004, and the celebrations in Boston became violent enough that it caused excessive crowding of the streets and destruction of property, and led to the death of 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove, an Emerson College student who was hit by a non-lethal police projectile directly in the eye.
9. When a College Football Team Wins In 2014
West Virginia University unexpectedly won a game against Baylor this past October, and in their revelry they tore down lamp posts, burned couches, and destroyed vehicles in Morgantown, West Virginia. This was literally a few weeks ago. Glad that these riots clearly have their priorities in order in light of the actual injustice that is going on in the nation.