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History

Violence In The U.S.

It looks like the United States is becoming a violent place to live.  

 Again.

 It’s nothing new. The right of free expression is part of our set of ideals. But sometimes free expression causes violence. What can start as a peaceful protest can always have a rogue element to it; just one person who says something, or does something, that can blow an organized assembly into chaos.

 All it could take is just one rock hitting the windshield of a police car, then, … run like crazy!

 Protests have turned violent in America going all the way back to colonial times. Sometimes they’ve started with the intention of being peaceful, other times they began violently.

Colonial leaders protested Britain’s taxes in the 1760s and encouraged mobs to attack officials of the British Government. People were hanged in effigy, which was passive, but others were tarred and feathered. On one occasion, a mob broke into the home of a tax collector in Boston and destroyed it.

Today, the reasons for protesting are different, but violence still breaks out. And it looks like it’s happening with greater frequency.

Social justice warriors vandalize cities and college campuses as a way to express injustice, meanwhile ruining their own credibility. College students shout down and intimidate speakers so as not to hear an opinion that’s undesirable, killing the first amendment right to free speech.

Some Americans are beaten for their political affiliations. Lately, we have Americans protesting against the recent temporary travel ban, which is trying to keep Americans safe from terrorism. In a new world where terrorism dominates, a ban to stop potential terrorists would be common sense. But diversity supersedes a citizen’s safety.

If you’re a conspiracy nut — or even if you’re not — you have to wonder if politicians in Washington D.C. love to see Americans fighting against each other so that we don’t focus on the more important issues, like $20 trillion of debt. It’s confusing that a country as diverse as the US is still fighting over identity politics when there are more important issues that need to be addressed.

The violence that we are seeing every day is mob violence, and this type of violence causes a democracy to devolve into anarchy. John Adams condemned mob violence and its use of fear to undermine democracy. Adolf Hitler’s Brown shirts used mob violence to oppress Jews and other minority groups in Nazi Germany.

One thing we should have learned is that mob violence is tyranny because rule of law is replaced by fear.

We saw violence in the 1950s and 1960s with the civil rights movement, which was legitimate as African-Americans fought for equal education, voting rights, and equal employment. This wasn’t mob violence, it was peaceful protest, which turned violent as police and terrorist groups (the KKK) in southern cities tried to maintain the status quo of white supremacy.

Going farther back, the violence of the late 1800s has some resemblance to what we see today. Socialism, class struggle, and immigration were the reasons for much of the violence in the late 1800s as the US became more industrialized.

As people began to realize the unfair treatment of workers in steel mills, coal mines, railroads, and other industries, a labor movement began to fight for the rights of workers. According to History.com, the labor movement had its share of radicals – socialists and anarchists – many of whom were immigrants. Protests by these groups were responsible for killing innocent people.

By the 1880s the Knights of Labor were fighting for better working conditions and an eight-hour workday. And worker’s strikes led to violence. The Haymarket Square Riot took place a day after striking workers were killed by Chicago police. Labor leaders held a protest, and as the event was concluding, a bomb was thrown at the police, shots were fired, and eight people were killed.

Newspapers exaggerated descriptions of the culprits, calling them “long-haired, wild-eyed, bad-smelling, atheistic, reckless foreign wretches, who never did an honest hour’s work in their lives.’’

The violence that led to the Palmer Raids in 1920 started from labor unrest. American citizens were suspicious and afraid of communism after the Romanov monarchy was overthrown in Russia and a communist government took its place. Americans feared that radical communists provoked workers to strike as part of plot to overthrow the US. The same people were accused of sending bombs to the homes of politicians, including  one that exploded outside the home of US Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer.

The Palmer Raids were responsible for rounding up thousands of people accused of being communists, anarchists, and union members. Those who were American citizens were jailed while many more were immigrants who were deported. This was one of the worst violations of civil rights in US history.

Whether then or now, there is no excuse for the violence that grows from expressing differing opinions. The problem is that we had, and always will have, competing ideologies that are extremely different from one another, and neither side is willing to listen or respect the other.

  

Sources:
1) History.com – there is an excellent summary of the Haymarket Square Riot.
2) The American People: Creating a Nation and Society, Vol. 2

About pm

Teacher, writer, and freedom lover.

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