It was about this time four years ago when I told my supervisor at Real Change that Trump would likely win the 2016 election, and he was so sure that was impossible he bet me a dinner at my favorite restaurant that it wouldn’t happen. I didn’t have to put up any counter offer, not that it would have mattered. That was a good dinner.
It’s hard to see how Trump could win this time around. The president’s threat to send the military to states to put down protests brought condemnation from Pat Robertson! “You just don’t do that, Mr. President.”
Trump’s abuse of riot-control police, the First Amendment, St John’s Church and a Bible for a photo-op was obscene, even to a lot of his base.
James “Mad Dog” Mattis broke his silence, calling Trump a threat to our Constitution and condemning calling our cities a “battlespace” that our military should dominate. Trump has no business as president treating our cities as a war zone. You just don’t do that.
There’s nearly 20 percent unemployment in the U.S. now, according to government officials who still have jobs.
With so much unemployment, it’s easy to see why there is a strong movement across the country to cut funding for police departments. People are thinking, hey, we got laid off, so the police should get laid off, too. Besides which, the police can’t stop themselves from murdering people. So there’s that.
Being old, I naturally think back to past riots I’ve known. Don’t we all have our favorite riots?
My all-time favorite was a police riot I got involved in during the ’70s. It was in Ithaca, New York. A couple of hundred students were protesting the war off campus. The Ithaca police boxed them in and told them to disperse. Which they couldn’t, as they were boxed in. So after a minute, the police charged at the protesters while swinging batons, for not dispersing as ordered.
I watched that from a block away, until about half the marchers managed to break through the police lines and rush down the street at me, chased by the police, and hoo boy, then I was a target, too. Fortunately, I could run faster than any Ithaca cops.
Even though I was 50 years old and unlikely to outrun a cop, I still ventured out into the Seattle World Trade Organization protests in 1999. There was a lot to see in that mess. I took notes. I especially enjoyed watching the behavior of some of the storm troopers. On one occasion, I saw a team of cops ride a Humvee into battle to occupy an empty intersection by first softening it up with tear gas. They then drove into the intersection, got off the Humvee and strutted around, looking all proud of their conquest, before climbing aboard to go find new targets.
It looked like a performance of the Seafair Pirates with tear gas instead of candy and Glocks instead of fake swords.
My next riot was the notorious of Seattle Mardi Gras 2001. That afternoon on the way home, knowing that the police expected violence at the Pioneer Square celebrations, I was sure I would be tear-gassed before the end of the night.
That was the last time I can remember when I decided to stroll over to the big event that could turn into a riot and check it out. I made my way through the masses of people until I came to a space where some people were yelling at each other, and a fight broke out and one man tried to stop it. I was at the exact place and moment of an outbreak of mob violence, standing in the midst of the mob, with police looking on from two blocks away.
I backed out of there, made it home and turned on the TV. The man who tried to stop that fight was killed. Eventually the police moved in and ordered the crowd to disperse. And chased them down the streets as they did. Because you know, if people comply with an order to disperse, you can’t just let that go unpunished. The next thing I knew there were people running through the intersection outside my apartment, and the police were right behind them to lob tear gas into the intersection. And Anitra and I were tear-gassed inside our apartment.
That was the last time I felt young enough to risk getting involved in a potential riot. Now I stick to writing.
Black lives matter!
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read more in the June 10-16, 2020 issue.