The streets look like war. Two NYPD police officers were just “assassinated” apparently as revenge for the Eric Garner chokehold death. This is the first major physical attack on actual police officers after the Ferguson riots ignited the #blacklivesmatter movement. Though this was just the act of one troubled person and doesn’t represent the mostly physically nonviolent movement that has been going on, it is absolutely paramount to be clear on what principles we are aligned with as we fight for justice.
Recently I became certified as a Kingian Nonviolence (a system of conflict reconciliation built on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) trainer. The protests bring to mind two important principles from what I learned: “Avoid internal violence of the spirit, as well as external physical violence,” and “Attack systems of injustice, not individuals within those systems.”
When protests breakout there is often an abundance of rage. Where is this anger usually directed? At people. Often towards the police, or individual officers. This results in dehumanization, seeing others as less than human. When we dehumanize others, violence is justified against them, and the system which created them remains unchanged. The way out of this cycle is two fold: 1) Attack and transform the systems that created these individuals. 2) Refuse to hate individuals and instead empathize.