We Always Criticize the Protesters

During the Bush years, we filthy hippies FREQUENTLY heard that if we were not so filthy, and did not smoke so much pot, and would just get jobs already or shut up about Palestine or not make giant puppets, more mainstream people like [hippie-puncher] would join the anti-war movement and the war would end.

(Because refusing to end a war unless people conform to your aesthetics of protest is such an admirable sentiment. “I would have stopped all that killing but you used the wrong words so I did not.” The FUCK kind of sociopathic shit is that?)

During the protests that formed the beginnings of the visible Black Lives Matter movement, in Ferguson and Baltimore, it was the same thing: Why do they have to wear rude T-shirts and break windows? Why can’t they let themselves be tear-gassed peacefully? If they’d wear suits and ties, white America would totally be down with recognizing their fundamental humanity!

(Like you cannot disapprove of badly trained cops shooting unarmed black people without more forcefully disapproving of burning down a CVS. Like there’s a scale and somebody is recording your tone of voice.)

And after Chicago protests of police killings of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and Laquan McDonald, some of the smug in Chicago’s press asked why there weren’t Michigan Avenue marches for TV cameras on every single day, because every single day black men, women and children were dying in the city.



As if killings by agents of the state don’t merit protests against the state, but also: You do not get to ignore a thing, and then say that thing does not exist, and then blame other people for your ignorance of their actions: 

CHICAGO — How come nobody is protesting against neighborhood gun violence?

People have been asking variations of that question on social media lately, many of them reacting to recent high-profile protests following the release of the video that shows Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by a police officer.

But Chicagoans were protesting, marching and engaging in important discussions across the city long before the video emerged … and they still are.


Martinez Sutton, who grew up at 62nd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, said there are so many protests and neighborhood meetings that it’s hard to keep up.

“It’s always happening. They fight [gun violence], not only in the streets, but they’re trying to get legislation passed. A lot of people think just because you don’t see them in the street, they’re not doing anything. But that’s just not the truth at all,” he said.

Sutton’s younger sister, Rekia Boyd, was fatally shot by a Chicago Police officer in 2012. Following citywide headlines about the Laquan case, the Independent Police Review Authority has recommended that the officer be fired.

Why aren’t you protesting X instead? is just always a way to argue against you protesting anything. It’s just a way to say, “Why am I hearing your voice? Why are you speaking to me like you’re a person? Why are you bothering me? Go away.”

And if it’s pointed out that all along people have been protesting the “right” way, the “right” things, that they did wear suits and ties and got the firehoses turned on them anyway, that they stood calm and quiet and got beaten for it anyway, people who are determined not to see you will keep their eyes closed.

So once and for all time, there’s no perfect way to protest. That’s a useful thing to remember this week, as the RNC gets underway in Cleveland. There is no way to completely insulate yourself from criticism that you are Doing It Wrong. You will always be Doing It Wrong to people who have no interest in seeing you Do It Right.


2 thoughts on “We Always Criticize the Protesters

  1. I think about the whole “Why aren’t you talking about blank..” instead is a stalling tactic used to bitch on the internet.

  2. Responding only to your first point (I know, I’m the worst): “why can’t you just dress nicely, then everyone would take you seriously” was 100% the first thing I thought of when I saw this image.

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