Among the notable events that took place in America on November 14th, 2023, a pair of protests taking place some 600 miles apart deserve to get the old college compare and contrast treatment.
First up, a group of Stop Cop City protestors gathered in Atlanta with the express purpose to stop construction on the much debated but inevitable Atlanta Public Training Center. Key words here: stop construction. Not, “raise our voices” or “”show opposition.” Stop construction. A goal that would necessitate a display and use of force.
Photo Journalist Riley Bunch of the AJC captured some stunning images of the crowd and the resulting clash with police when the mob tried to storm the police protecting the site. One particular image stood out to me from her series of photos she posted to Twitter:
Bunch’s tweet is remarkable for two reasons. First, the stated goal of the group was to “shut down construction through ‘strategic non-violence.'” And yet, one of the signs in this photo threatens, “we’ll get NASTY.” Sounds so incredibly… peaceful and non-violent.
So let’s jump to the end before we tell the middle here for the sake of of showing how planned victimhood can be used to an advantage in today’s media. The mob was tear gassed in an attempt by police to disperse the crowd. Immediately, protestors began posting to social media with pictures and videos of police, decked out in riot gear, throwing tear gas. The tweeters of these images then began claiming, or at the very least inferring, that the cops started it and that they were out of line for dispersing the so called peaceful protestors.
Just a bunch of peace loving Americans exercising their first amendment rights and getting tear gassed for their efforts, right?
What the planned victims didn’t show in their social media posts were members of the mob, intent on stopping construction, rushing the police and shoving them backwards. These aren’t your John Lewis and MLK types. Carrying a banner that read in all caps, “DEFEND THE FOREST – DEFUND THE POLICE” the mob tried to force their way past the police, pushing and shoving the cops.
No wonder the cops were in riot gear. Thank God the cops were in riot gear. No wonder the cops dispersed tear gas. Thank God the cops dispersed tear gas.
Every soldier in the United States Army gets to experience what it is like to inhale tear gas in a confined space during basic training. When I did it, it created a stream of snot that exploded from the farthest reaches of my sinuses, out of my nose and nearly touched the ground before it departed my nostrils. I speak from experience when I say it isn’t pleasant. But it isn’t deadly. More importantly, it worked in this instance to disperse the mob without seriously injuring anyone.
It is important to note that the protesters were allowed to march for over two miles without being interrupted by authorities, from Gresham Park to the site of the training center. The cops did not stop them from peacefully marching, chanting, or gathering. Only when they made physical contact with police did the police react.
I would really like to know how many of these protestors are actually from Atlanta. It is now apparent that the Stop Cop City movement has been coopted by individuals with national, fringe, and anarchist affiliations who are seizing it as, what looks like to me, part of their radical effort to end policing altogether. I have no sympathy for them, especially when so many of the protests around the training center appear to have taken up the cause of Hamas and their expressed desire for Jewish genocide.
Which brings us to a protest occurring over 600 miles away on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. where another AJC reporter, Greg Bluestein, reported with equally compelling images.
The protest in this example actually was peaceful. It’s stated purpose was to express support for Israel, to call on Hamas to release hostages, and call for an end to rising antisemitic attacks. Speakers at the event featured figures from both parties and both chambers of Congress. There were no acts of violence, and therefore no uses of tear gas. However, there were times of prayer for the hostages.
Also in attendance was State Representative Esther Panitch, D – Sandy Springs, whose Twitter feed is full of posts taking on the more extreme elements of her own party on the question of Israel and Hamas.
In America you are free to organize, gather, and collectively (or individually) raise alarm, dissent, or advocate for whatever cause you deem worthy. When done right, it is a beautiful thing. However when violence is employed, it does in fact get nasty, and that seems to be the aim of so many of the stop cop city protestors these days. And while my heart hurts for my Jewish friends who are suffering through sleepless nights brought on by a brutal attack by Hamas, I am having a hard time mustering any sympathy for those who choose violence as a means to end the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.