In April I wrote to MLK Saratoga regarding the March 27 rally and march organized by All of Us in support of the adoption of the Police Task Force recommendations. I observed that the apparent decision by the leadership of the march to eschew working with the Saratoga Springs Police Department in taking to the streets had put the participants at unnecessary risk to be hit by a motorist or assaulted by a counter protester. I also noted that some participants were apparently supposed to be “security” and were carrying baseball bats. Such provocative displays of weapons could only further risk violence and injury.
I pointed out that such tactics were fundamentally counter to the principles of nonviolence as advocated by Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. I expressed my deep concern that the young, untrained youth who were participating in these demonstrations were unnecessarily at risk.
While it took some time for MLK Saratoga to respond, they agreed to enter into a dialogue. Regrettably, since then, in spite of a follow up email (see below) MLK Saratoga has been silent.
An Alarming Video
Today I found a video posted by All of Us, the sponsors of our city’s demonstrations, purporting to show training for civil disobedience.
In this video, readers will view the training All of Us offered for what to do in the event someone is arrested. This poorly organized event offered two methods for addressing arrests. These techniques represent aggressive resistance rather than peaceful non-violence.
Swarming – In this scenario, a person playing a demonstrator has been wrestled to the ground by participants portraying the police. The other participants in the training were told to throw themselves onto the body of the person being arrested which was supposed to somehow free the arrestee.
This poorly crafted exercise bordered on the satirical and quickly devolved into chaos and confusion.
If anything, it demonstrated the folly of trying to interpose oneself between a person being arrested and the police who are subduing the individual. The people playing the “rescuers” ended up piled on top of the police and the poor individual being arrested.
Simple common sense should inform anyone watching this video that doing this with real police will not end well. The police will feel they are being attacked.
Snatching – In this scenario, a demonstrator who is standing up and being restrained by the police is somehow grabbed and “snatched” from the police.
This maneuver was attempted at the July 30, 2020 demonstration in Saratoga and it resulted in not only the arrest of the original person but the arrest of the two people attempting the “rescue”. It also ended up in a melee with the police “swarming” on top of the “rescuers.” Fortunately, no one was hurt.
These Tactics Can Only End In Disaster
All of Us’s tactics may be civil disobedience but they are not the non-violent civil disobedience advocated by Martin Luther King. Central to Dr. King’s tactic was passivity. The act of peaceful resistance was both a tactic and a statement. It was a statement against all violence. It championed the theme that violence begets violence and excess.
I urge the readers of this blog to watch the documentary series “Eyes On The Prize” which is available from the Public Broadcasting System through streaming. This is the story of how courageous people brought about change through struggle without resorting to violence. It documents how that movement used peaceful, noon-violent civil disobedience.
MLK Saratoga should be a voice for justice that places as a priority the safety of everyone from the demonstrator, to the bystander, to the police. Their silence in the face of the looming threat that the tactics of All of Us represents is profoundly disappointing.
Time is Running Out
Lex Figuereo and Chandler Hickenbottom, the leaders of All of Us locally, have put out a call for a protest on Sunday, May 16.
I urge MLK Saratoga to find its voice to help avert a potential disaster for the earnest but poorly led people who can be expected to participate in this event. The history of these marches involve an undisciplined seizing of the streets and a blockade of an intersection downtown. There is the real possibility that the police will not allow the blocking of downtown.
The potential for injury is great. MLK Saratoga, use your voices to help avert what may be a disaster.
Hello Mr. Kaufmann
Our apologies for the delay in acknowledging your last post and email. Our emails typically include our organization signature. In completing the online email form, I forgot that would not be included.
The email post was submitted by me but was from the three chairs. We will send a fuller response when time permits.
We will be gathering tonight at 6 pm in Congress Park to come together as a CommUNITY in peace and solidarity.
Hollyday HammondApril 20, 2021 email from MLK Saratoga
To Hollyday Hammond
From John Kaufmann
I appreciated your email indicating that you were going to respond to my questions. Wondering when I can expect to hear from you?Email May 2, 2021