Protesters in the Pacific Northwest smashed windows at a Democratic Party headquarters, marched through the streets and burned an American flag on Wednesday in a strident challenge by antifascist and racial-justice protesters to the new administration of President Biden, whose promised reforms, they declared, “won’t save us.”
In Portland, Ore., lines of federal agents in camouflage — now working under the Biden administration — blanketed streets with tear gas and unleashed volleys of welt-inducing pepper balls as they confronted a crowd that gathered outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement building near downtown. Some in the crowd later burned a Biden-for-President flag in the street.
Another tense protest in Seattle saw dozens of people push their way through the streets, with some breaking windows, spray-painting anarchist insignia and chanting not only about ICE, but the many other issues that roiled America’s streets last year under the administration of former President Donald J. Trump.
“No Cops, Prisons, Borders, Presidents,” said one banner, while another proclaimed that the conflict over racial justice, policing, immigration and corporate influence in the country was “not over” merely because a new president had been inaugurated in Washington, D.C.
“A Democratic administration is not a victory for oppressed people,” said a flier handed out during the demonstrations, during which protesters also smashed windows at a shop often described as the original Starbucks in downtown Seattle.
Of course these people are exactly right: Biden's election will do nothing to create the world they want. But that's because the world they want – “No Cops, Prisons, Borders, Presidents” – is impossible.
Certain things they want, like abolishing ICE, are possible, but on the other hand are unlikely to get the necessary votes, partly because people like them keep smashing things.
Here's a question: do people like this, pushing for the impossible with low-level violence, have any sort of positive role to play in a democracy? Do they generate any momentum toward their causes, by raising awareness or what have you? Or this just a straight-out loss for the world?