It’s easy for TV news to blame youth of color. But the fault lies squarely at the feet of a white-supremacist billionaire.
For photos of the peaceful protest that preceded Trump’s Albuquerque rally and the riot that followed it, check out this story’s attached Artefact.
For all the local and national media coverage of last week’s violence following a Trump rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico—we even made the BBC—there’s been very little discussion of a critical point (perhaps the critical point): why did this happen?
The answer, though you wouldn’t know it from watching CNN, is that Trump is causing the riots.
There’s a reason that youth, women, people of color, and nearly every minority group imaginable detest Trump enough to protest whenever his toupee and the body attached to it are somewhere nearby.
The reason, of course, is that unlike Jeb! or Bernie or Hillary or even Ted Cruz, Trump was never really running a presidential campaign. Trump is running a violent hate tour carefully calculated to stir up white anger. And everyone—white people, Black people, Latinos, journalists, women, the disabled—has reason to fear Trump. And not just a Trump presidency, mind you, but his campaign events as well. And that’s because Trump’s events are safe spaces for violent white supremacy, giant venues where angry racists can (almost) always attack protesters, people of color, and other political undesirables with impunity.
I experienced this first-hand. It was scary.
That video ends when a Trump supporter knocks my phone out of my hand. I managed to get it back, but other Trump supporters tried to stomp it to bits and then, failing that, kicked at me as I was being dragged across the floor by security. And here’s the thing: I wasn’t even protesting. I didn’t have a sign, I wasn’t shouting, I wasn’t interfering with security or provoking the Trump supporters in any way.
It’s obviously true that security had every right to eject me from Trump’s private event, even if it was just because I look like a long-haired hippie. But his supporters had no right at all to lay their hands on me, knock my private property out of my hands, or attempt to kick me. All of that clearly constitutes illegal violence. And predictably, the people of color (some of them undocumented immigrants) who are seen peacefully holding up signs in the video got it much worse than I did. But for all the media hand-wringing about the riots (which started a couple hours after I shot this video), there was nary a word about the violence committed by Trump’s supporters at the rally itself. At around the one-minute mark in the Associated Press video below, you can see that they ripped a woman’s shirt off—she sure didn’t get into the rally wearing just a bra. Trump’s supporters tore her top off before security could get to her. As it was happening, Trump yelled “This is so exciting!” CNN never bothered to mention any of that.
Of course, all political rallies have their share of idiots. The difference is that Trump actively encourages his supporters to attack people, which crosses the line from constitutionally-protected speech into criminal incitement to violence.
Trump famously pledged to pay the legal fees of his supporters who violently assault protesters. He openly pines for the “old days” when protesters were “carried out on a stretcher,” an obvious reference to Bull Connor’s dogs-and-fire-hoses brutality against peaceful protesters demanding equal rights for Black Americans. In less than a year, he’s racked up a horrific litany of encouragement to violence against peaceful people whose only crime is disagreeing with him.
The point is this: of course there was a riot in Albuquerque when Trump came to town. How could there not have been a riot?
Albuquerque is a majority Hispanic and Native city. These are the very people that Trump is threatening violence against. When he says he wants to deport all eleven million undocumented immigrants, he’s talking about transforming the entire country into a racially-defined police state. As Arizona’s recent history clearly demonstrates, policing efforts to target “illegals” inevitably end up targeting all Latinos. It’s already far beyond the bounds of the acceptable for him to threaten to drag 11 million people out of the country, but when you consider the fact that these sweeps consistently end up targeting legal residents based solely on their ethnicity, it becomes clear that Trump’s campaign promises amount to threats of violence against every single Latino in the country. And that’s not to even mention his psychotic hyperviolent anti-Muslim fantasies or his open support for random violence against Black people.
Basically, Trump’s platform taken all together amounts to a promise to round up every person of color and political dissident in the country and violently drag them out like the protesters in my video.
So what’s the appropriate response to this? Sit down and shut up and wait for voting day? That’s nice in theory, but the very people Trump targets are the ones who are being systematically disenfranchised from the electoral process. And there’s no guarantee that voting would work anyway. The genocidal racist who lost the election in 2000 still got to be president for eight whole years.
Now, I’m not saying that people should have rioted when Trump came to Albuquerque. I’m saying that, given the circumstances, it was pretty damn predictable that people would riot. And, furthermore, I’m saying that it’s Donald Trump’s fault that they did riot.
Riots don’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not like hundreds of people spontaneously decide to start burning things and throwing rocks at cops for no reason at all. Every riot has a cause. You can call riots “counterproductive” all you want, but that won’t stop them from happening when the right conditions are met.
The Ferguson riots, for example, were caused by Officer Darren Wilson when he murdered 18-year-old Michael Brown. A Department of Justice investigation later found that Black people in Ferguson had been subjected to racialized policing for decades. The people of Ferguson were backed into a corner with no legal recourse to alleviate the violence arbitrarily directed at them by the police and city government. Ferguson police created a tinder box and Darren Wilson lit the match.
This is the same story over and over. Widespread unrest in Mexico following the forced disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa rural school. The uprising in Baltimore following the police murder of Freddie Gray. Six days of rioting in LA in 1992 after a brutal police beating was caught on video. That’s what people do when they have no peaceful option for ending the violence being visited upon them: they fight back.
Again, this is not to say that riots are a good thing. There is validity to the argument that rioting is counterproductive. Darren Wilson never went to jail, the cops that killed Freddie Gray are going to walk, the 43 students from Ayotzinapa are still unaccounted for. I don’t believe rioting will stop Donald Trump.
What I do believe is that the rioting is certain to continue. In fact, as I write this, reports are coming in of more violence at a Trump event in San Diego. The violence and the rioting are not spontaneous and they’re not inevitable. It’s not the fault of drug-addled thugs who can’t get dates and don’t want to work. There’s one thing and one thing only that could prevent more rioting, and if Donny Trump really wants the violence to stop, his only option is to take the advice of the great Walter Sobchak: