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When You’re in Riot Gear, Everything Looks Like a Riot — Poster of the Week

When You’re in Riot Gear, Everything Looks Like a Riot

John Emerson, Occuprint

Silkscreen, 2012

Brooklyn, NY



Two Civil Rights giants died last week. Reverend P.T. Vivian (1924 - 2020) and Rep. John Lewis (1940 - 2020) were both committed to non-violent direct action. Both were often arrested, jailed, and beaten by police during their decades-long fight for social justice. Vivian almost died trying to integrate a whites-only Atlanta beach in 1964. Lewis almost died from his 1965 beating during the pivotal Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march for voting rights, known as “Bloody Sunday.” Both worked closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. Vivian was national head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); Lewis, the youngest person to speak at the 1963 March on Washington, was the chair of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).*

Non Violent Activists Met with Violence — This could be a headline from the 1960s…or today. All across the country, non-violent activists are being beaten, arrested, maimed, and killed. Trump ordered Federal troops deployed to the Federal Courthouse in Portland – even though Oregon’s governor and Portland’s mayor don’t want them, and accuse the troops of making the situation much worse. In response, an inspiring “Wall of Mothers” — up to 200-strong—stood on Sunday, July 19, between the riot-gear clad military and the unarmed protesters. They chanted, “Feds stay clear! Moms are here!” until dispersed with tear gas and stun grenades.

These Federal troops are anonymous, have no visible identification, and are literally grabbing people off the streets and putting them into unmarked vans. This reminds too many of Chile in the 1970s and Germany in the 1930s. Once again, non-violence is met with extreme state violence. Is this a dress rehearsal for what to expect leading up to November? 

*See CSPG’s recent Poster of the Week featuring John Lewis here.

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