What You Need to Know About Demonstrations

Posted Jun 9, 2020


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Learn about the history and accomplishments of demonstrations, and how they can sometimes become riots.

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Hello, and welcome to this webinar on What You Need to Know about Demonstrations. My name is Teresa Francois, and I will be your host for the webinar.

In the times that we're living in now, these are very interesting times, very trying times. So we're trying to get a handle on exactly what is going on and to try to understand what's going on and how we got to the place that we're in now.

This is also brought to you by Beacon, which is your EAP or Employee Assistance Program.

So, sometimes to find out how we got to where we are, we need to look at the past and see what was happening in the past to get us to this place. So you want to start by acknowledging the past pain and what things have come before this to get people to the place of where they are now in terms of protesting and in terms of the outrage. And then you want to acknowledge that social rage. Where does it come from? And the reality of racism and what people feel as racist, racism, and systemic racism as a whole. And it comes from, the social rage comes from the reality of racism. It comes from poverty. It comes from inequality and unemployment. And those all wrap around each other. The inequality, the unemployment leads back to the poverty and it just keeps circling around itself.

And the fact that the current situation that we're in is happening during a pandemic takes it to a whole other level, because the pandemic brought up some of the inequalities in our system. The inequalities in our healthcare system, the inequalities in our financial systems, and that's what made the rage even more so. So we were starting already from a place of feeling unequal or things being out of balance. And then this just took it to another level.

So this is not the first time we've had protests or riots in this country. And we'll actually ... It's semantics the wording, but we'll talk in a minute about the difference between protesting and rioting. So as far back as 1865 with the founding of the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan, that was also inequality. That was a movement for white supremacy over black Americans. They employed violence to push back any type of reconstruction in the South. Then in 1919, there were 27 separate race riots, the worst being in Chicago. And again, it was sparked by the death of a black man at the hands of a white one. And there were 27 separate race riots, but the deadliest one was in Chicago.

And then I'm sure you're all familiar with 1955, Rosa Parks seeing the injustice and the inequality and not wanting to give up her seat on the bus, which also led to marches and protests. In 1965 there was another riot in Watts, which is a suburb of Los Angeles, which left 34 people dead. And again, it was a black man pulled over by the police for supposedly drunk driving or alleged drunk driving, and they pulled him from the car. And again, the rest is history. Nineteen-ninety one there were also riots in LA. Rodney King. And again, it starts with that inequality, but it escalates to a place of 45 deaths and a billion dollars in damage. And we still don't know the number of deaths and the cost of the damages amassed by the current situation that we're in.

And today organizations like the KKK and neoNazis and white supremacist groups still exist. Some are blatant. Some are underground. And again, because of the dawn of the internet and social media, people can act anonymously and propagate these ideas on a wider basis.

So again, the wording. The psychology of a riot. Okay, a riot is very different than a protest. Okay? A protest, a demonstration during the fifties and sixties, it was called a march. Even still now we have the Woman's March, the Men's March. We march on Washington. Those are marches and those rights are granted to us in The Constitution. We have the right to a peaceful protest. And if you've been watching the news, I noticed the other night, they had a, an interesting comment. Some of the news commentators were saying that the days, excuse me, day protests are very different than the night protests. The day protests are very orderly and quiet. Pardon me. The day protests will have a moment of silence. They'll have people taking in the ...It's the night protests that border and turn into riots.

And when you have a riot, the riot hurts the reputation of a community, okay? Because that tends to lead into stereotypic things of that's how those people act. That's how people of a certain ethnicity act. That's how people who live in that neighborhood act. So by rioting, it causes those stereotypes to evolve. And it causes people to, if they didn't have that belief before, that causes them to really now have that belief.

A riot is an ineffective way to get your voice heard because it's a riot. So literally and figuratively, your voice is not heard. Everyone is just shouting. And then you have what's called the mob mentality. You're swept up in it. You start to follow along. And sometimes you're pulled along, literally because it's such a mob and you're just pulled along with the group. And then that mob takes on a life of its own. And it does have a high cost of property losses and lives lost. As I said, we have not yet seen numbers come out about how much property damage has been done.

And during the pandemic, it's twice as difficult because these are just in some states, some states are opening up, and were just starting to open up. So businesses that survived the pandemic didn't survive the riots, the looting. So now I don't have a store to go back to open up. I don't have a store to shop in, even though I thought the stores were going to open back up. Now this happened, those stores are not going to open back up. And this gives you a good look at the difference between protesting versus rioting versus looting, okay? Again, protesting is legal and you're safe to speak out. And some people will march with you, will protest with you. They empathize with what's going on and it keeps people safe. And for the most part, when you're going to have a march or protest, most times you need to have a permit. You work with the police, you work with the city council so you're allowed to have an orderly gathering.

And protest has been effective as change agents. Again, because it was orderly and our needs, our demands or needs or our concerns when laid out. Rioting is purpose driven, but it is not productive for the rioting may tag onto the purpose of the protest, but it is not productive. And it does destroy property and leads to potential injury both to the rioters and to the police or the national guard, or whoever's called in to try to maintain order. And then it becomes that it's against everyone. It's not focused on, okay, if we're upset with the police shooting, we're focusing our anger at the police. No. This is just, we're angry at everybody. It's against all of society and we're burning down or rioting. Looting the stores in our own neighborhood. So the anger is even turned on our own neighbors. And then looting has nothing to do with a message or a protest or safely speaking out. It's just driven by selfish purposes. Looters are opportunistic. Since all of this is going on, I can break a window and climb into this high end store and get something. And I'm destroying the property. And again, it could be an injury to myself from climbing through glass or an injury to the store owner who's trying to defend their property.

And it increases the risk of racism. Because then again, I'll say, "Look at those people who are climbing into those stores. That's what those people do." And it forces a culture of hatred rather than change, because then even the people in the neighborhood become angry and outraged at the looters and their hatred. They start to hate the looters as well. So each one has its own its own climate, but the most legal and the one that has the most, can have the most effect is the protest. The most positive effect would be a protest.

And we have a long line of peaceful demonstrators. Again, because you have the right to assemble and you have the right to demonstrate peacefully. And probably the most famous is Dr. Martin Luther King, who always did preach passivism and also spoke of passive resistance. You're going to sit quietly. Besides marches there would also be sit-ins or sit downs. Sit-ins were common on college campuses. You would occupy a building. You would sit down. You would sit in. So, as I said, there's a long list of people who talk about peaceful demonstrations. Harvey Milk had many peaceful demonstrations in terms of the LGBQ community.

Again, marches, protests, demonstrations come from a place of you're seeing there's some inequality somewhere. Some group is being treated differently because of gender, race, sexual orientation, whatever it is. There's some type of inequality there. And that's the key piece in a demonstration.

And this is a tough time, because we don't get it ourselves as adults and we may have to have the conversation with our children. Again, they're watching the news. They're hearing the news. And when I say children, I'm talking about all ages from zero to whatever. Your children are always your children. So again, when you're going to talk to your children about these things, you want to make sure that the discussion is age appropriate. And I mean, mental age, okay? How much can they handle? If you're talking to your older children, they have views on it. They may view it differently than you. And again, depending on where you are, on what side, for lack of a better word, that you're on, you may have had this conversation before, and it may be a difficult conversation to have, okay? You may have to talk to your sons about being safe when they go out. And what it is, is to have the conversation in a peaceful way and a way that they can understand and grasp the issues. So that's what you want to talk about. The issues. What's underlying this? Where did this come from?

And that's why we started this with a history lesson. And this is great, especially if they're home from school and they're talking current events or history, this is a great discussion to have. This is a current event. This is what's going on. And then you want to explain just as we did in the other slide, the difference between protesting and rioting and explaining that they do have a right to go to a protest or a march. You may be living with some young adults that are going to protest. You may be frightened for them, but they have to make that decision. If they're old enough and they feel, they see the injustice and they want to go out and have their voices heard. You also want to talk to them about having the right, the thought that you can walk away. Everything does not have to be confrontational. And to listen to the nonviolent voices, listen to the people who are sitting down having town hall meetings or having discussions in the community about how we can get this done in a nonviolent manner.

And every community has a city council or a town council, something like that. So you want to explain to them that the marches, the protests are about getting things changed. There is ways, there are channels that we can go through to get laws changed that we don't particularly think are fair. And we can do that by going to becoming, maybe some of them want to run for the city council. You might have a young adult that's politically inclined. So explain to them that that's a way to make change, to become part of the governing board, part of the fabric that makes those laws, that can make changes. And that it's our responsibility, all of us, to make things better. And again, that's the way you can make a responsible difference and make, you know, making sure that that they're registered to vote and explaining how important it is that they vote. So those are ways that we can peacefully make changes in laws and the way things are going.

And we've learned lessons about racism in the past. And you also want to show ... Another way to show children how things have changed, because things have changed although it seems in the midst of this, you know, a lot of us are feeling well, we've gone right back to where we were, but things have changed. We have come a long way. We still have obviously a long way to go. But explain to them, there was something called the Birmingham Children's Crusade in 1963. And these were teenagers that marched from their school to a church. And again, they were marching against the inequality that they saw in races. And they had a fire hose turned on them. They were beaten by the police, but their voices were heard, okay? Not because they were teenagers they couldn't be heard. So your voice can always be heard.

And then some of the media is starting to show things that were seen as negative or as stigmatized. They're starting to become more mainstream. So commercials and TV shows are showing interracial couples, gay marriage. And again, whatever your belief is, that's your belief. That's a thing that you want to stress to them also to your children is that it's not about I don't have to agree with someone's lifestyle, but I don't have to be mean to them or beat them up or destroy their property because I don't like their lifestyle. It's the old live and let live. So we can leave people be and just respect that they're different, that we're different. And once we get that under our belts, then we'll be in a pretty good place.

And again, athletes that have made strides, who played on all white teams and made inroads into it. You know? And to let them see the progression of how we got to be where we are today and different politicians who have made differences in what they stood for, what laws they passed. And again, when they speak out against certain injustices, past politicians, present politicians, local politicians. So you want to keep your eye on that. What are the local politicians talking about? And across party lines, you know? And I think the situation that we're in now has unified people if something positive could come out of it. It has unified people to say, you know, we all feel that this was not right. And what can we all do going forward to make some changes. And one of Martin Luther King quotes is, "The limitation of riots, moral questions aside is that they cannot win and their participants know it." "Rioting invites defeat", he said, "and while it offers an emotional catharsis, that catharsis must be followed by a sense of futility."

So meaning that while you're rioting and looting, it might feel good, that catharsis of breaking that window, but it's followed by a sense of, you know, what did I gain from this? I really didn't gain anything. I destroyed my neighborhood. I can't shop at this store tomorrow. My friend had tear gas in her eyes. I had the pour milk on her to stop the burning. What did I gain from doing this? So that's where the rioting is futile, but the peaceful demonstration and having your voice heard can lead to change.

Maya Angelou eloquently said, "Hate has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet." So, the hate, it's okay to be angry and everyone feels the anger, but it's what you do with that anger. And if the anger is fueled by hate, and you stay in that place of hate, it's not likely that anything positive is going to come out of it.

So hopefully I've given you some food for thought here and you start to see some of the differences and some of the nuances between protesting and looting and rioting. Hopefully you can take something away for yourself and also a takeaway for the people that you have influence over. And I guess I could say this too. We also want to keep our own personal responsibility. Think of how we speak. Think of how we treat people. Because it starts with one person. And if everybody does their part, we'll start to see it's going to be a slow change for a long time coming, but it's going to be a slow change, but it will come. And if you can change one person or one person's idea or thought, we're going to wind up in a pretty good place.

If you have any questions or any issues or anything, if you want to go into this further or you have some things that you've been thinking about and you'd like to talk to somebody, you can contact your Employee Assistance Program. They have telephonic counseling at this time. Or just somebody that you want to sit down and discuss some issues with. You might be feeling some fear and anxiety around the whole crisis that we're in right now, the unrest because you're feeling anxious. Your Employee Assistance Program has people that you can talk to that can certainly help you.

So thank you for your time. Stay safe.





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