The American Mind: Rep Jim Banks on the Portland Riots

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Washington, July 28, 2020 | comments

The following appeared at The American Mind on July 28, 2020.

There have been non-stop riots in Portland for 60 days. The media still calls them “George Floyd protests,” but if you actually ask the protesters, they’ll give you unrelated answers. Some say they’re fighting against homelessness, some are fighting for immigrant rights. Others say they’re fighting “systemic racism.” Still others want Medicare for All, defunding the police, protesting climate change, etc.

The protesters want you to think they share a legacy with the Civil Rights Movement. They tell you they are the direct descendants of the movement born by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the now-passed John Lewis, who protested segregation and the racist Jim Crow laws. 

But are they? 

The late John Lewis’s most famous role was that of a Freedom Rider. In 1961, John Lewis boarded a bus with 5 other black individuals and 7 white individuals from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans. The purpose of this protest was to demonstrate the injustice of laws on the books that prohibited black and white riders from sitting next to each other on public transportation. 

John Lewis and the other Freedom Riders chose to protest a law by strategically breaking it. They wanted to demonstrate that blacks and whites could integrate and coexist peacefully. They were right, and it prompted a correction in our nation’s laws.

Here’s why the Civil Rights Movement was successful. By and large, protesters followed the laws as they protested, and when they chose to break the law, as in the case of the Freedom Riders, they did so strategically to highlight the injustice of that particular law. To borrow John Lewis’s phrasing: He was making “good trouble,” not “bad trouble,” which he always quickly denounced.

Today, we don’t see the same moral clarity in Portland, Oregon. Instead we have a list of unrelated demands, various groups sowing chaos, and a lot of innocent people getting hurt.

By and large, except for the Trump administration, we don’t see anyone working very hard to stop it. Speaker Pelosi has yet to denounce the violence. Rep. Jerry Nadler said Antifa causing violence at the riots is a “myth.”

Why can’t Democrat leaders see what we all see? These riots have gotten out of hand and need addressing now.

 

The Atlantic Magazine gives us a clue. In a recent article by Ron Brownstein, we find this shocking threat: “If Trump wins a second term—especially if that victory relies on another rural surge to overcome massive opposition across the big metros—the chaos in Portland might look like only the preliminary skirmish for an even more incendiary collision to come.”

This isn’t like the Civil Rights Movement at all. This is unrest designed to tear a nation apart if the people don’t elect the right president. It is not a movement for reform, it’s a revolutionary movement. And if history has taught us anything, it’s that revolutions never end well for anyone—even the ones that launch it. We should all be very fearful of what happens if a mob seizes power.

That’s why I’d like to appeal to my friends across the aisle: Don’t stoke the fire and expect not to get burnt. It may serve your short-term political interests to see these mobs in the streets, sowing discord and chaos ahead of the November elections. But in the long-term, it could be disastrous for the country we love. Please join President Trump and Republicans in denouncing the violence and pray for peace like our country depends on it—because it does.

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