After two weeks of the Beavercreek Police brutalizing peaceful protesters for John Crawford, today’s #OpJohnCrawford protest did not see one officer so much as slow down, stop or get out of their cruisers to harass protesters.
On Christmas Eve, our reporters, reporters with Alternative Media Syndicate, as well as those with the Greene County Herald and local NBC 2 News were all threatened by police for simply recording them illegally assaulting citizens, including Elementary School age children, mothers with strollers attempting to go shopping, and a retired University of Dayton Law Professor.
Some are suggesting that the reason why police have felt they could brutalize protesters at the last two rallies before this was because there were very few visible guns in sight.
Recently, NPR ran an illuminating piece called “‘Guns Kept People Alive’ During The Civil Rights Movement” which argued not only that the roll of armed civil rights leaders has been downplayed in popular conceptions of the 50s, 60s and 70s activism, but also that Martin Luther King Jr’s own attitude and history with firearms for personal defense was not as black and white as it is often imagined. The piece argued that “passive resistance did not necessarily mean an unwillingness to use force to protect themselves from violence in other circumstances.”
In an interview with the author of This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible, the author Charles E. Cobb Jr. explains the following:
“I’m very much concerned with how the history of the southern freedom movement or civil rights movement is portrayed. And, I’m very conscious of the gaps in the history, and one important gap in the history, in the portrayal of the movement, is the role of guns in the movement. I worked in the South, I lived with families in the South. There was never a family I stayed with that didn’t have a gun. I know from personal experience and the experiences of others, that guns kept people alive, kept communities safe and all you have to do to understand this is simply think of black people as human beings and they’re gonna respond to terrorism the way anybody else would. …The southern freedom movement has become so defined, the narrative of the movement has become so defined by non-violence that anything presented outside that narrative framework really isn’t paid that much attention to. I like the quip that Julian Bond made…that really the way the public understands the civil rights movement can be boiled down to one sentence: Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, then the white folks saw the light and saved the day.”
Today’s protest at the Beavercreek Walmart was by all definitions peaceful, and without incident. But why weren’t all of the smirking, high-fiving, bullying cops out to antagonize protesters today?
Clearly all of the protesters today were not armed. In fact, only about half were. But that appeared to be enough to keep the police from trying the antics of the past two protests, including running into a woman at the same Walmart, in a pedestrian crosswalk, with police SUV cruiser #149 and then driving away without stopping.
Police Chief Evers has thus far refused to charge that officer – or even cite him – for the hit-and-run that was caught on video from multiple citizens.
At the last protest, officers even physically assaulted and threatened a protester in a wheelchair, nearly tipping her out of her chair. Today she said she felt much safer.
Several of the protesters we talked to said that they do not personally like guns whatsoever. But they, like all of the protesters there, had come out to support John Crawford, not to declare their support for all of each others personal politics.
There were notably less protesters today than at the Christmas Eve rally. Today saw a few dozen protesters of all backgrounds and from all ends of the political spectrum.
Representatives from Yellow Springs Cop Block said, “considering there were a handful of folks who we were told had been going around discouraging people from attending because there would be more than just one mindset of people in attendance, the turn out isn’t half bad. This was real progress towards people looking past personal differences and keeping the focus on John and the details of his murder.
As for the next rally, “We will keep trying to get people of all perspectives and groups to come out together for John, like what happened today. We don’t all have to agree on yes guns or no guns or Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Anarchist or Marxist, but this isn’t about that: it’s about justice for John Crawford.
Do you think that the presence of armed protested helped keep the police in check? Certainly there was no civil disobedience going on at this rally, unlike the die-ins, but the vast majority of those arrested at the previous protests were not in fact violating any laws, or participating in acts of civil disobedience. Some were, as noted, journalists, while others were simply talking on their way out to their vehicles.
While guns don’t seem to be the only thing that distinguished today’s protest from the two just before it, it definitely does seem to be one factor.
(Article by Moreh B.D.K. with additional reporting by E.J. Newsman)