For two days, we’ve seen young people express outrage over the fatal police shooting of Keith Scott. Their form of expression smashing windows, looting drug stores, shutting downs streets and setting fires.
They’re rioters, looters and agitators.
To Cherrell Brown, 27, they’re protestors.
Brown and the organizations she works with, QTCOP Collective (Queer and Trans Color of People Collective) and The Tribe, call the chaos after the peaceful protests an “organic uprising.”
“When you have the vigils, the planned marches, that’s beautiful because folks are coming together and deciding that we are going to be in community with each other. We are going to grieve together, we are going to hold each other. That’s beautiful,” said Brown, of Greensboro, and who has appeared on MSNBC in the Huffington Post.
“Some of the continued stuff that’s happening afterward is also beautiful. They’re saying, ‘ We’re going to show up and take up as much marching space as we want to. That is a part of black resistance and black resilience.”
Most observers don’t describe that type of resistance as beautiful. Images of smashed windows, police cars destroyed, BLM painted on walls and vehicles, and youth taunting police has the city on edge. Not too mention, police officers in riot gear and tear gas filling the streets of Uptown.
Governor McCrory declared a state of emergency on Tuesday night. Chief Kerr Putney hasn’t completely ruled out implementing a curfew at some point. The NAACP, local faith, community and business leaders have called for an end to the violence. Even Keith Lamont Scott’s family has called for peaceful protests.
But Brown asks, who is being violent? White supremacy is violent and police brutality is violent, she said.
“How we are showing up and responding to that violence is resistance,” Brown said.
She argues that resistance in any form is powerful. Brown and other members of her team are experienced organizers and have dropped into other national hotspots to provide support to rioters. They administer street medicine such as tear gas and pepper spray relief and help for those who are arrested.
“We’re here to make sure folks can show up the way the want to show up, and resist the way they want to resist,” Brown said. “We’re here to be in solidarity with them.”
Their tactics treads a fine line. Throughout history most effective movement featured a good protest vs. bad protest. Bad protest grab headlines, keep the national media in place and instill fear.
Think Civil Rights Movement v. Black Panther Party or Martin v. Malcolm.
The thing is, the Black Panther Party had an action plan and specific goals. So, did Malcolm X. The question is, what do these young rioters want. We see them, but how do they want us to help them?