“There is No Such Thing as Peaceful Protest”
Zoé Samudzi said this in a YouTube Live discussion last week. Here’s the full statement:
In order for a nation-state to exist, it has to maintain a monopoly on legitimate violence. There is no contesting the State that the State understands outside of an attempt to undermine the monopoly on legitimate violence. So, there is no such thing as a peaceful protest. There is no such thing as non-violent civil disobedience as long as it seeks to, in some way, displace the tendrils of brutality.
In other words, the State will always frame challenges to its actions and authority as invalid. The State’s authority is based on exclusive validity. The form of the challenge isn’t the point, the fact that a challenge has been made at all is the point. Now, as we enter the third consecutive week of protest, it appears that a new phase has been reached in the struggle. Curfews (i.e. the criminalization of protest) have been lifted, the National Guard (i.e. martial law) has been withdrawn, and reforms (i.e. concessions) are being proposed. We are here because the world witnessed, not only the violence of Black murders by U.S. police, but the violence of U.S. police brutalizing those who dissented against those murders.
The excuse given for their brutality was that their targets were “violent protestors” (Antifa/looters) not “peaceful protestors.” But that was pretext. What the police understood was that, even if protestors’ tactics were peaceful, protestors didn’t come in the name of peace. Protestors came in the name of truth. And demanding truth from the State will always be called violence. We can never forget that the FBI marked MLK, America’s chosen patron saint of peace, as “the most dangerous Negro of the future.” We can never forget that, when Kap kneeled in solidarity with Black protestors, it was regarded as intolerable prior to becoming useful for cooptation by the police as a performative symbol of solidarity against their own brutality. We know that it was perceived as violence because the NFL responded violently — by revoking his livelihood and withholding it to this day. We can never forget that the hostility to the demand for truth on behalf of the oppressed is why, as Buffalo police officers were charged for shoving a 75-year-old protestor to the ground and walking over his body as he bled from his ears, supporters gathered at the courthouse to encourage them.
So, what is the truth? Black people, dead and alive, have been used by state and local governments across the country as funding mechanisms. The fiscal case for billion dollar police budgets lies in the social necessity of keeping Black communities physically contained, economically unstable, and psychologically in line. Now, after being forced to work through a pandemic and watching our loved ones die in old and new ways, Black people are demanding an entirely new situation. Sylvia Wynter articulated that, in struggling against a systematically anti-Black world, the great battle would be against the truth of oppressive powers which negate Blackness. Those are the regimes of truth that structure society’s mind and consciousness. They create a world that sustains alienation and individualism. Revolutionary conceptions of truth — those that forcefully uplift collectivity and demand an end to racial subordination — is what this bloodshed is/was over.