What Happened to the Riots?

In the summer of 2020, after the death of George Floyd, the country was beset by protests that turned into riots. Major cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. were in flames, with Black Lives Matter and Antifa shock troops leading the way. Then, after the tense period between the election and inauguration, the riots mostly stopped, as if someone had flipped a switch.  

Of course, violence still exists. Violent crime is up significantly nationwide, just as it rose after the often-violent anti-Vietnam War protests of the 1960s. And, in Portland, riots and the Antifa culture of violent resistance to authority have become somewhat institutionalized

But, for the rest of the country, the riots have stopped. This, even though police still occasionally shoot suspects, and sometimes those shootings are controversial. And there is also still a great deal of political division nationwide. Even so, the end to the riots has been a bit surprising.

The disappearance of the Left’s riots confirms what many have suspected: that they were centrally planned. On the surface, this was hard to believe. Antifa looked like Darwin’s waiting room, a gaggle of meth-mouthed degenerates, many with criminal records and obvious mental health problems. They were augmented by ordinary street thugs, amped up by the anti-police rhetoric of Black Lives Matter. 

But it turns out both groups had a lot of support and included prominent, professional members. They also had internal organization, including encrypted communications channels, supply trucks, and extensive training for their cadres. This is all well documented in Andy Ngo’s exposé, Unmasked.

They also benefited from friendly media. The media willingly repeated their disinformation about how minor the riots were, with CNN’s use of the phrase “fiery, but mostly peaceful protests” revealing the extent of the agitprop. Antifa and BLM occupied a Seattle neighborhood for weeks, during which several people were robbed, beaten, and killed. Nonetheless, the mayor described it as having a street festival atmosphere. The media and officials downplayed the millions of dollars in damage, assaults, and murders.

And the rioters benefited from resources, including lots of money. Food trucks, melee weapons, and legal support from the Communist-affiliated National Lawyers Guild accompanied some of the riots. Bail funds obtained money nationwide to ensure that violent rioters would be quickly released. Kamala Harris even encouraged donations.

Rioters would frequently masquerade as “street medics” or “alternative media” to avoid curfews, dispersal orders, and other types of scrutiny. By way of example, workers at the Seattle-based free food truck Riot Kitchen were found with “helmets, gas masks, protective vests, illegal fireworks” when they were arrested in Kenosha, Wisconsin during their riots that summer. 

As I have explained before, the rioters were not against the system, in spite of their anarchist poses. Instead, they acted as the vanguard for the system, which is created by and serves the Left and its allies in the managerial class. This is why the CEO of Google and the most ragged looking Antifa members had the same basic views on Trump, immigration, global warming, George Floyd, COVID, and the need to shake up the status quo. 

While they appear to be opposites, the economic elites of Silicon Valley and Wall Street benefit by disorienting mainstream America, hurting traditional small businesses and retail, and generally demoralizing those who adhere to a more traditional lifestyle and value system. For the political elites, the riots functioned as a show of force, a probing attack to suggest what would happen if Biden were not elected.  

In other words, there is no daylight between Antifa and BLM terrorists and the respectable political Left in our country. The Left is a “high-low” coalition allied against the middle class. And the violence is part of the plan. It is analogous to the game the Sinn Fein political leadership and the Palestinian Authority used to play: sorry, would love to help, but I can’t control these crazy fellow travelers of mine; you gotta give me something. 

This all makes the establishment’s kvetching about the Right’s riotous conduct on January 6 all the more insulting. No doubt, some laws were broken, and normal, proportionate punishment was appropriate. Further, the protest turned Capitol-takeover was wildly counterproductive, both for its immediate goal of reversing the election results and the broader goal of encouraging Trump’s supporters on the Right.

But this protest was minor and did not include arson and lasers aimed at police and other pre-planned violence that typically accompanies Antifa. The Trump people all have guns, but they mostly left them at home. 

Political theater has always been common in Washington, D.C. Just the other day 71 were arrested for protesting for low-wage workers. During the Iraq War, Code Pink would show up regularly at hearings and make a ruckus. Both sides have their activists and their weirdos. They are hardly a threat to democracy; indeed, a certain amount of excitement, civil disobedience, and activism is an important part of democracy. 

The difference was not their tactics but their goals. Unlike Antifa, the pro-Trump January 6 protesters opposed the consensus views of the elites in government, high tech, Wall Street, and the media. Their relatively minor crimes of trespassing and broken windows thus were deemed worse than murders, arsons, and assaults to advance the Left’s goals last summer. 

The fact that Antifa and BLM violence can be unleashed and put back in a bottle is itself worrisome, as the financiers and shot-callers are mysterious. Spontaneous demonstrations at least have the benefit of being random “one-offs.”  By contrast, we know from the recent past that organized and centrally directed political violence—complete with acquiescence from prosecutors, the military, our largest companies, and the nation’s top leaders—is in the works if somehow the figurehead Biden is removed from power. 

Our current reprieve is the calm before the storm. 

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About Christopher Roach

Christopher Roach is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and an attorney in private practice based in Florida. He is a double graduate of the University of Chicago and has previously been published by The Federalist, Takimag, Chronicles, the Washington Legal Foundation, the Marine Corps Gazette, and the Orlando Sentinel. The views presented are solely his own.

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