Days of quiet rage

Generating turnout at a movement event is hard work.  Grievances and injustice don’t make protest happen; rather, grievances allow an activist effort to resonate.

When Anonymous called for nationwide demonstrations on the Ferguson events, they were depending upon local networks to turn out the people.  This happened in some places, to be sure, but not on the posted schedule and not with the numbers and coordination that a national Days of Rage campaign promised.

Organizers swing and miss all the time, so what happens now?

In the immediate aftermath, the most visible coverage of the Days of Rage is at conservative sites, where the emphasis is on the fizzle out, with a little reframing of the real problem: crime not cops, they say.

In Ferguson, meanwhile, the story is of channeling and processing dissent.  The demonstrations last night were apparently civil, including elected officials, with attention turned to the management of the legal case against the police officer who killed Michael Brown.

In this way, a cause turns back into a case.  Justice for Michael Brown might entail prosecution and punishment of the shooter, and a civil judgment or city settlement with Brown’s family.  But even putting the cop in jail and cutting a check to Brown’s family doesn’t come close to balancing out the loss of a young life.

Alas, big cities pay wrongful death settlements all the time, and it seems like these millions haven’t reliably led to better and more civil policing, much less anything approaching racial justice.

About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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