Does violence undermine the message of protests?

Politics 2020/6/5

Does violence undermine the message of protests?

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What’s happening

Cities across the country have been riled by demonstrations in response to the police killing of George Floyd for the past week. Scenes of broken windows, burning vehicles, as well as police using tear gas and other tactics, have become a daily fixture of news coverage. 

The ongoing unrest has reignited a debate that has divided resistance movements in the U.S. for at least the past half-century: Do violent protests advance the causes that inspire them, or undermine their messages? 

For many, the enduring lesson of the civil rights movement in the 1960s was the power of nonviolent protest embodied by Martin Luther King Jr. But many activists disagreed with King and preferred a more aggressive, and at times violent, approach.

That same dynamic has been observed during the current demonstrations. While protests have been mostly peaceful, some individuals have engaged in looting, property destruction and isolated incidents of direct violence.

Why there’s debate

The ideal of peaceful protest is grounded in the belief that violence is never the answer, even in response to violence inflicted upon black people by police. “If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves,” former President Barack Oba

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