The extensive looting and rioting piggybacking on the peaceful protests in response to the death of George Floyd are disastrously counterproductive. Criminals and extremists are piling up damages that will result in costs to minority communities — communities they claim to represent — for years to come.
Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley provides some history to show that peaceful civil rights demonstrations get better results. He points out that two consequential laws affecting African Americans, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, came as a result of Martin Luther King-style peaceful protesting.
By contrast, he writes, “Recent history has not been especially kind to militant efforts to advance racial equality.”
Princeton scholar Omar Wasow has conducted a 15-year research project on the consequences of political protests. From his study of black-led demonstrations between 1960 and 1972 he concluded that: “Non-violent black-led protests played a critical role in tilting the national political agenda toward civil rights.” But, he says, “black-led resistance that included protester-initiated violence contributed to outcomes directly in opposition to the policy preferences of the protesters.”
Violent protests followed the April 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In his study, Mr. Wasow, who is black himself, found that voters in counties closer to violent protests supported Richard Nixon over incumbent Hubert Humphrey by 6 to 8 percentage points”.
There’s a lesson here for the 2020 election. Jason Riley warns politicians against allowing “violent protesters to become the face of their party” and against indulging radical demands made by these protestors. He again takes us back to the Nixon presidency when advisor Daniel Patrick Moynihan pointed to “a silent black majority” whose concerns did not dovetail with the black power movement of the day.
There are endless reports of minority-owned businesses destroyed in the current riots. The damage is concentrated in the same minority communities the peaceful protesters are seeking to benefit. Violence undermines reform and can turn elections.