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On May 25, 2020, an employee of a convenience store phoned 911 to report an individual who had allegedly purchased cigarettes with a fake twenty-dollar bill. When police arrived, their maneuvers manifested in “a series of actions that violated the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department [which] turned fatal, leaving the perpetrator unable to breathe.”[i] In only a matter of minutes after the emergency call, the man, George Floyd, was dead. Despite the fact that the Minneapolis Police Department dismissed the officers involved from their employment and filed a series of murder charges against Derek Chauvin, the officer who was most culpable, public outcry was, understandably, immediate and passionate.[ii] The same day, protests against police brutality began to upsurge in major cities across the nation. As political unrest swelled, it collected and propelled the fury. But the rage of the crowd had been stirring for a while before this tragic event. And when the impassioned masses met a justified cause, the population exploded…

The Powder Keg

In addition to the understandable outrage regarding George Floyd’s death, another issue was brewing beneath the surface of society’s demeanor. For months prior, the country had been experiencing government-mandated shutdowns and quarantines due to the spread of the virus COVID-19, causing economic stagnation, unemployment, and financial strain for countless numbers of families across the nation. The government offered several types of relief efforts—including a first round of $1,200 stimulus checks going to qualified citizens, with rumors that there would be a second round.[iii] Despite this assistance, the population became a powder keg—ready to blow at the first spark. The strain on individuals was immense: financial hardship, the lockdown of many business and most social activities, extreme isolation, disruption of public schools, fears about the future, and grocery and supply shortages—and the list doesn’t even include the threat of contracting the virus itself. Many lost their jobs and businesses. A great number of folks became angry at the government for how it was handling the crisis. These and many other issues constitute only a small portion of the anxieties felt daily by people who found themselves stuck at home, twenty-four-seven.

During this time, workers deemed “essential” were allowed to continue employment and were thus exempt from parts of the mandated “stay-home orders,” but their liberty wasn’t always something to be jealous of, because their ability to continue working equated to increased risks of exposure to the virus. These laborers faced fears of being coughed or sneezed upon, sometimes intentionally,[iv] of being assaulted and beaten,[v] or of leaving work to find their tires slashed or vehicle vandalized.[vi] All this risk was in addition to increased exposure to the virus, a shortage of protective materials, and extra pressure at work to implement new sanitation policies while learning and enforcing emerging guidelines for social-distancing procedures.

Because schools, workplaces, and other community entities were shut down during this time, children, spouses, and domestic partners in abusive situations were stuck at home with their perpetrators, and hospitals saw a dramatic increase in the number of child-abuse-related deaths.[vii] For many children, the trusted adults in their lives are those they interact with at school. Without access to these protectors, children were isolated, without help. Additionally, abusers who may have otherwise kept their actions in check for fear of being discovered at school through a child’s demeanor or injury were free of accountability, thanks to the knowledge that it would be months before the victims would be reunited with their primary advocates.

Many cities across the nation not only a saw a spike in the number of domestic abuse incidents, but they reported that cases were also more severe. Thomas Manion of the Montgomery County Family Justice Center remarked that, despite the fact that their facility had not treated additional cases of violence, it had seen a “massive increase” in situations that had escalated to much more severe levels of threat, such as “cases involving strangulation, cases involving firearms…[and/or] other weapons.”[viii] Economists at Brigham Young University conducted a study comparing the number of emergency calls to police in 2020 with the number of calls placed in other years, and results showed a 7.5 percent increase during the months correlating with pandemic lockdown and stay-home orders; this surge manifested across all demographics.[ix] Alcohol sales saw a spike during this time, increasing more than 240 percent during the weeks correlated to shutdowns.[x] Support meetings for alcoholics were canceled, and alcoholism, along with drug use, saw a rise, as well. The number of drug overdoses marked an 18 percent increase during the pandemic.[xi] The number of people suffering from depression nearly tripled during the pandemic,[xii] those with mental illness experienced increased frequency and/or severity of symptoms, and the number of those having thoughts of suicide doubled over  the statistics reported in 2018.[xiii] All this doesn’t even touch on the long-term, economic wreckage caused by 2020’s devastating series of events, an exhaustive list of which fall outside the scope of this series.

Turning back to May of 2020, people who had spent the past two to four months (depending their region) on lockdown were finally being allowed to return to work, using appropriate social distancing and mask precautions. A tense, frustrated, fearful society emerged warily from their homes to see whether it was safe to enter and participate in “the world” again yet. When George Floyd died by the hands of injustice, the pent-up anxiety and negative energy that had been troubling the entire country could no longer be subdued. And, under the heading of a righteous cause, many people were uninclined to attempt restraint.

Among those who responded to Floyd’s death with an unsurpassed level of fury were members of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization. That group formed in 2013, when the “neighborhood watch” volunteer who shot and killed seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was found not guilty on all counts of homicide.[xiv] The organization’s mission is “to eradicate white supremacy and build a local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.”[xv] This objective is noble in its approach to shielding victims of racial injustice from threat of discrimination or harm, and stated in this context, aligns with the principles America stands for.

And, as Christians, we should advocate for victims of injustice of all types.

Yet, many will agree that the fruit of 2020’s riots somehow misaligns with BLM’s stated honorable motives. What happened?

Initial protests were labeled “peaceful,” but a passionate momentum began to propel the organization to the forefront of media reports, and soon, other movements were joining forces. A nation that had been stifling mounting tensions for months during COVID lockdowns seemed to collectively erupt in aggression. “‘If you aren’t moved by the George Floyd video, you have nothing in you,’…[stated University of Pennsylvania’s professor D. Q. Gillion]. ‘And that catalyst can now be amplified by the fact that individuals probably have more time to engage in protest activity.’”[xvi] The racial injustice against Floyd was made worse by the extreme toll COVID-19 had taken on his community: “The pandemic has disproportionately affected African American communities both in loss of life and economic effect,” stated one report. “As learned in the Arab Springs and Tunisia, sometimes a simple spark will prove to be the critical one.”[xvii] The number of demonstrations soared, totaling nearly 5,000, averaging nearly 150 per day, and spanning approximately 2,500 towns and cities in the following months.[xviii] Those who had never before participated in political demonstrations began joining in, and organizations such as Antifa (short for “anti-fascist”) began to hijack the press’ attention. Protests became riots. City authorities were overwhelmed with meeting the needs for crowd control, yet were plagued by challenges that come with the obligation to allow peaceful gatherings, manage emerging COVID-19 social distancing policies, and maintain order. Intervention by authorities fueled the public’s rage regarding governmental overreach and police brutality, placing them in increasingly heated situations. Curfews were instigated and enforced in major cities across the nation, and crowds were tear-gassed and pepper sprayed; many protesters were even arrested.[xix] Federal forces were dispatched as reinforcement in some cities, and temporary fences and barricades were erected to protect official buildings and many private businesses. Demonstrators responded by learning—via blogs, YouTube videos, and other means—how to participate in rioting and looting without being arrested or leaving fingerprints and how to use household items (such as baseball bats, tennis rackets, lasers, and frozen water bottles[xx]) as weapons. One video circulating on social media for a time showed viewers how to use a window-punch tool to break into locked vehicles during riots and encouraged viewers to become violent to those who sought safety inside a locked car. The video was later blocked. Over the course of the demonstrations, many cities saw property destroyed, fireworks thrown at civilians and officials, buildings set ablaze, stores looted, historical statues overturned, vehicles burned, and much more. In many places, shootings occurred.[xxi]

President Donald Trump promptly responded to the state of affairs by insisting that he would designate Antifa as a terrorist affiliation, stating that its far-left agenda was causing a state of anarchy to which the government must respond.[xxii] However, such swift and decisive recourse is much easier said than done. In order to designate any organization as a domestic terrorist or hate group, the accusation must be quantified with specific criteria.

For example, to be considered a terrorist organization, a group must state or demonstrate hatred toward a specific party, race, orientation, or other classification of people. But, since members of Antifa “do not promote hatred based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” they don’t fall within the legal “terrorism” parameters.[xxiii]

Further, Antifa might have been guilty of creating havoc on the streets, but the group’s actual objectives are vague, making it difficult to decisively categorize it as a terrorist group, which the FBI technically defines as one unlawfully using “force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”[xxiv] Additionally, according to the FBI, “there is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism,”—this vagueness leaves the positions of such groups as being legally subjective.[xxv]

Further convoluting the issue regarding whether Antifa falls within the FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism is the obscurity of the organization’s mission; many wonder precisely who or what is the real driving force behind it. After all, it’s not organized in any official way (although in some regions, it does organize on a community level) and has no recognizable structure of leadership. It’s merely considered “a loose affiliation of local activists scattered across the United States and a few other countries.”[xxvi] Additionally, Antifa, unlike many other causes, isn’t as much defined by what it does stand for, but rather, what it does not: “Fascism, nationalism, far-right ideologies, white supremacy, authoritarianism, racism, homophobia and xenophobia…[and sometimes] capitalism and the government overall.”[xxvii] Since many other, “non-terrorist” groups have this same position, the organization behind the riots is able to innocently deny instigating extremist or illegal actions. It merely puts the blame back on individual citizens who simply “got out of hand” or allowed their personal passions to escalate to an unhealthy level.

In Seattle in August, tensions heated up as residents remained locked in their homes, while protestors in the streets yelled at them, demanding that they surrender their house keys. Claiming the neighborhood had once been primarily owned by African American families, but had since been sold to white residents for less than market value, demonstrators shouted such demands as “Open your wallet!” “Check your privilege!” and “How do you plan to fix it…as a gentrifier [stating that these individuals were] part of that problem.”[xxviii] At the other end of the spectrum, defensive homeowners stood by, ready to protect their domiciles. For example, Mark and Patricia McCloskey soon became known as the “gun-wielding couple.” The McCloskeys claim they were inside their residence in St. Louis when protestors busted through their gate and began “hurling threats.” The couple felt compelled to respond by “protecting their property”[xxix] via  brandishing weapons at the trespassers. Despite asserting that their actions were legal, the couple has now been indicted for “exhibiting guns…[and] tampering with evidence.”[xxx] They say that more than political activism is at stake here; they believe this incident demonstrates the transition from the “government’s job as protecting honest citizens from criminals…[to] protecting criminals from honest citizens.”[xxxi]

Further embodying the convolution on all sides of this issue are the actual activists themselves. Some engage in a “cause” because it gives them an outlet for spending their ambitious and passionate energy—even though the motives behind that “cause” might escape them. A vaguely stated goal such as “bucking the system” can be appealing, but without clear objectives and defined goals, it’s an empty pursuit and yields no good, humanitarian results other than perhaps emotional rewards. These include such “feelings” as a boosted level of confidence, a sense of belonging, or even a channel for negative, pent-up energy). For example, activist Alycia Moaton became impassioned at a press conference where she stated that police officers were beating people up and laughing at/mocking innocent civilians “every single day.”[xxxii] Then, she said, “People are worried about looting and there are literal lives being taken away…people…are dying and y’all are mad about people looting…Get over it! These buildings are insured!”[xxxiii]

This young woman’s perspective is revealing about the culture in which we live. First of all, buildings are not insured out of the generosity of society: Property owners pay premiums and accept liability for deductibles and policy requirements. Then, they’re “covered” in the event of an emergency or unforeseen disaster. However, anyone who has ever made an insurance claim understands that even after all monies are paid out, there is always some measure of uncompensated loss to the policyholder. The very notion that being covered by insurance would grant permission for someone to destroy another’s property—not to mention deal out damage that will result in longer periods of commercial closure for these victims—shows a gap in logic that prompts the notion of the “cause” to contradict itself. Under what heading is justice brought about for one person who’s been wronged by destroying cities and attacking the property of others? This is an example of hijacked passion that lacks being grounded in the spirit of the cause one claims to support. If someone is so moved by compassion that he or she wants to propel humanity’s well-being or stand up for the underdog, that person doesn’t hurt innocent bystanders’ property. The very idea is counterintuitive. The owners of destroyed businesses in no way deserved to have their possessions looted and demolished in the name of fairness toward a third party who was wronged. The irony of Moaton’s rant is that she claimed to be acting in outrage about one injustice while propagating another. Every day during 2020 in which riots occurred under the heading of “justice and equality,” people were injured and killed, suffered loss via damage and theft of assets, or simply remained in their homes, watching vigilantly in the hopes that nothing bad would befall them. Additionally, while damaged and looting businesses underwent repair and reopening, more people continued to see extended unemployment and loss of business.[xxxiv] Ironically, when all is said and done, it’s likely that their insurance premiums will also spike.

Most revealing of all when considering Moaton’s stance is the contradictory nature of many people’s involvement in activism. As mentioned before, such vague headings as “buck the system” often become the label under which they operate. Yet, when society is torn down and someone must be held accountable, their default response is to call upon the safety net of a higher structure to rescue and restore them; they essentially expect a benevolent “they” to clean up the mess and facilitate/fund the rebuilding. Yet, America suffered a grotesque measure of damage beginning in 2020. Historical monuments were destroyed or defaced; economic damage occurred; businesses were closed, destroyed, and/or looted; conflict festered between citizens and authority figures; morale plummeted; and lives were lost in the fighting. Yet, for many, the motivation behind all of this fallout appeared to be more the sake of the fight than actually restoring justice. Did the tens of thousands of people destroying our cities learn anything through the warring? Was their mission accomplished? Who will step up and oversee the restructuring? Is there a benevolent “they” who will foster the reuniting of our country’s society and actually work to bring people back together? The damage on a cultural level runs even deeper than what we see in the rubble of our buildings, historical monuments, and even our economy. No “insurance policy” can undo the wreckage our own people have wrought upon one another.

UP NEXT: The Casualties of “Cause”

If you would like more information on the topics covered in this article series, see the book Dark Covenant by Donna Howell and Allie Anderson, available below:

[i] Hill, Evan; Tiefenthaler, Ainara; Triebert, Christiaan; Jordan, Drew; Willis, Haly & Stein, Robin. “How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody.” New York Times. May 31, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Kane, Libby; CFEI; & Loudenback, Tanza. “The IRS Has Sent over 159 Million Stimulus Checks so Far. Here’s What to Know if You’re Still Waiting on Yours.” Business Insider. June 23, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[iv] “Coronavirus: Devon and Cornwall Key Workers Assaulted 99 Times.” BBC Online. April 24, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[v] Brito, Christopher. “Retail Worker Creates Facebook Support Group for Essential Employees after She Was Allegedly Attacked by a Customer.” WBTV Online. May 25, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[vi] White, Dawson. “Slashed Tires and Violence: Health Care Workers Face New Dangers Amid COVID-19 Battle.” Miami Herald. April 23, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[vii] Calaway, Jeff. “Spike in Severe Child Abuse Cases Likely Result of COVID-19.” Checkup News Room. May 6, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[viii] Inglesias, Veronica Balderas. “Over a Dozen US Cities See Domestic Abuse Spike During Pandemic.” VOA News Online. September 10, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] “U.S. Online Alcohol Sales Jump 243% During Coronavirus Pandemic.” Associated Press. MarketWatch Online. April 2, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.,while%20beer%20sales%20rose%2042%25.

[xi] Mann, Brian. “U.S. Sees Deadly Drug Overdose Spike During Pandemic.” NPR Online. August 13, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xii] Boston University School of Medicine. “COVID-19 Has Likely Tripled Depression Rate, Study Finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 September 2020. <>.

[xiii] Stephenson, Joan. “CDC Report Reveals ‘Consideraly Elevated’ Mental Health Toll from COVID-19 Stresses.” JAMA Health Forum. August 29, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xiv] Alvarez, Liz & Buckley, Cara. “Zimmerman Is Aquitted in Trayvon Martin Killing.” New York Times. July 13, 2013. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xv] Black Lives Matter. 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xvi] Buchanan, Larry. “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History.” New York Times. July 3, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xvii] Williams, Heather. “The Dangers of Designating Antifa as a Terrorist Organization Now.” RAND Corporations. June 22, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xviii] Buchanan, Larry. “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History.”

[xix] “Antifa: Trump Says Group Will Be Designated ‘Terrorist Organization.’” BBC News Online. May 31, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xx] Holton, Chuck. “As Antifa Agitators Burn Bibles in Portland, What Role Should Christians Play?” CBN News Online. August 8, 2020.

[xxi] Davenport, Christian & Scruggs, Gregory. “Protests Explode across the Country; Police Declare Riots in Seattle, Portland.” Washington Post. July 26, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xxii] “Antifa: Trump Says Group Will Be Designated ‘Terrorist Organization.’” BBC News. May 31, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xxiii] Farivar, Masood. “Four Extremist Groups Suspected of Involvement in Protest Violence.” VOA News Online. June 1, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xxiv] “Terrorism.” States and Services: FBI. 2002–2005. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] Gornstein, Leslie. “What Is Antifa? Is It a Group or an Idea, and What Do Supporters Want?” CBS News Online. October 16, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xxvii] Ibid.

[xxviii] Miller, Joshua. “Seattle BLM Protestors Demand White Pople ‘Give Up’ Their Homes.” New York Post. August 14, 2020. Accesssed November 6, 2020.

[xxix] Trager, Lauren. “Indictments Allege McCloskeys Altered Pistol and ‘Obstructed Prosecution.’” KMOV News. October 9, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] Henney, Megan. “McCloskeys, St. Louis Gun-Wielding Couple, Warn: ‘Your Family Will Not Be Safe in the Radical Democrats’ America.’” Fox News. August 24, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xxxii] Kangadis, Nick. “‘Get Over it!’ These Buildings Are Insured! Chicago Activist Angry at Those Upset by Looting & Rioting.” MRCTV. August 24, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020.

[xxxiii] Ibid.

[xxxiv] Ibid.

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