Respectability Politics of Civil Disobedience: Are We Waiting For the Perfect Protest? | WYPR

Respectability Politics of Civil Disobedience: Are We Waiting For the Perfect Protest?

Sep 19, 2017


More than 150 people have been arrested during the protests in St. Louis

Protests in St. Louis continued last night following the acquittal of a white, former police officer, Jason Stockley, in the 2011 shooting death of black man, Anthony Lamar Smith. A recording device inside the former officer's vehicle captured Stockley saying he was “going to kill” Smith during a high speed pursuit. Prosecutors also accused Stockley of planting a gun inside of Smith's car after he was fatally wounded. Peaceful protestors marched through the city immediately after the verdict was announced, but by Friday evening, pockets of the protest erupted in violence.

More than 150 people have been arrested so far, 9 police officers have been injured, storefronts and the St. Louis Mayor’s house have been vandalized. What should we make of demonstrations that turn violent? And how do we define that violence? Is civil disobedience always going to remain civil?

In the 1960s, most Americans held unfavorable attitudes towards the Civil Rights Movement. A 1963 poll showed that 60% had an unfavorable feeling toward the then planned March on Washington. In 1964, 74% said that since black people had made some progress, they should stop their demonstrations. By 1969, 74 % said that marching, picketing and demonstrations were hurting the civil rights cause. Where does Dr. King’s philosophy of non-violence stand today?  Do we have unrealistic expectations for civil disobedience in cities like St. Louis and Baltimore?

Pastor Michael McBride co-authored a New York Times op-ed that asks the question are we Waiting For a Perfect Protest? Pastor Mike is the lead pastor of  The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, CA. and the director of People Improving Communities Through Organizing's (PICO) Live Free campaign

Terry Anne Scott is an assistant professor of history at Hood College.

Dayvon Love is a community organizer an activist who serves as the Director of Public Policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a grassroots organization that advocates for public policy that supports black people.

Bishop Frank Madison Reid III is the former pastor of Bethel AME Church in Baltimore and now a Bishop for Ecumenical & Urban Affairs in the AME Church. He co-authored the piece Waiting For a Perfect Protest?

Tonight at 7pm, Tom will moderate a Constitution Day panel at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The panel will answer the question “Is This What Democracy Looks Like?” The panel will include Joy Ann Reid of MSNBC, historian Kenneth Ledford, and the artist Dread Scott.  The event takes place in Falvey Hall, in the Brown Center at MICA.  

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