Call this what it is. It’s a police riot.

I was at one of the protests in downtown Seattle yesterday. I got there at 3pm. I saw nothing but people standing in the street with signs and chanting. Not a shred of aggression from the crowd.

By 3:45 there were people coming back through the crowd with pepper spray in their eyes. The flashbangs followed.

I’m not a skilled or experienced activist. I was out of shape even before spending months in quarantine, and I knew it was time for me to pull back. Not proud of that. I walked with a white woman who had spray in her eyes, helped her with what I could, and was glad that several more experienced young women showed up with water and milk and towels.

The woman who’d been sprayed was just stunned. No aggression. She had no idea why the cops started spraying.

I wish I could show you the next pair I met. I don’t take pictures without permission and I wasn’t about to ask at a time like this. The older Black gentleman I met and the young Black woman with him–a daughter, grandaughter, I don’t know–both had bloodshot eyes and faces covered with milk and water to counteract the chemicals. They, too, were a little shaken but otherwise chill, and had no idea why the police started spraying. He had a USMC ball cap.

The guy served his country, peacefully asked for an end to the abuse people like him keep suffering, and he got a face full of chemical agents for it.

You can see the videos all over the internet. Police attacking reporters, police running down civilians with vehicles and in even one case I saw, a horse. People who aren’t any kind of threat at all.

This is a riot, yeah. It’s a police riot.

New book out this week. Should be focused on that. Maybe I shouldn’t be mixing this in when I already don’t post that frequently on my blog–sorry about that. But this is too important not to say anything. If you have a platform, it’s time to use it.

Inevitably, someone will try to tell me this is all because of antifa–and anyone who believes that can get bent. That’s not what antifa is or what it means. Antifa means “anti-fascist,” and that’s not an organization or a group or a terrorist cell, despite anything our clearly-loves-him-some-fascism president claims. Yes, there are white people among these protests getting destructive and out of hand for all their own reasons, none of which help Black Americans. They need to settle the hell down. The far greater share of violence is coming from white supremacists and police.

Also, someone will inevitably say I shouldn’t get political, or that I will alienate half my audience, as if I’m new to all this. I’ve always been political. This is who I have always been. I’m fine with losing any part of my audience who has a problem with what I’m saying. And by the way, if you ever see this said to any other creator: it’s never half. It’s never even close to half.

This is a police riot. We need to call it what it is.

8 thoughts on “Call this what it is. It’s a police riot.

  1. Stephen

    Thanks for showing your support. We had a protest here as well in a fairly conservative part of the country, and a driver went out of the way to drive into my friend and drive away. It was relatively slow and not enough to injure him, but it knocked him onto the car’s hood. It blows my mind that people can be so angered by these protests that they are willing to risk seriously injuring people that aren’t harming anyone. Fortunately we didn’t see any police violence, and I think they actually did their job well, monitoring from a distance without responding with anger or showing up grouped in numbers to intimidate the protest (I’m sure there were much more officers than normal nearby, but they didn’t goad protester by making a visible show of force). And, what do you know, none of the protesters were violent, none of them damaged property, and none of them turned into a looting mob. The only violence I saw was the jackass that wanted to make a point with his car.

    I generally try to recognize the best in all sides of an argument. I also don’t believe in rushing to judgement. In any individual case, I think it is important to withhold a final judgment in the absence of all the facts. Sometimes there are cases where an incident of seeming police brutality turns out to have been justified, and having family that have served as police, I feel like I’m just about as inclined as anyone to give as much benefit of doubt as I can.

    But case after case of video evidence, where police have abused authority with deadly consequences, demands change. It also pretty much guarantees that so much more is happening when people aren’t there to record what is happening. And nearly all statistics I find from reputable sources that aren’t overtly partisan conclude that nonwhite citizens are far more likely to lose their lives in police encounters than white citizens.

    What bothers me are people that refuse to even question whether there is a problem. That we have gotten so tribal in our politics that we look for any excuse to justify or handwave issues that concern people from the “other” political tribe. My aunt, as good a person as she otherwise is, thinks without checking any independent sources that every environmental problem is exaggerated or made up by the liberal media. That COVID-19 is a plot to dethrone our god-given president. That not just any gun regulation, but any gun violence study is a move by the government to take away our liberty (even though the studies are generally done by private entities, since the NRA has effectively blocked the government from sponsoring such studies). And that these protests are riots by angry people that are just looking for an excuse to behave poorly. She doesn’t recognize her politics as racist just because she personally wouldn’t think twice about sharing a table with a black person, or because she goes to church with someone who is black (I find people use the ‘black friend’ excuse without usually realizing it). Then FOX will show a video of looters in Minneapolis, then suddenly that is “all” these protests are.

    Anyway, I’m glad you are open about your views. I don’t feel you are disrespectful at all, and this issue is particularly important to raise our social consciousness for.

  2. Brian

    This is something that I’ve personally more and more over the age of Trump. I’ve realized that I live in a bubble. There are whole groups of people whose experience I cannot begin to fathom. Be it the “angry white folk” that elected the current occupant of the White House or whole populations feel fear or anger when having an interaction with a cop.

    I‘d assumed because I live in relative opulence and that It was economic uncertainty motivating voters and that it wasn’t just racism. That because any interaction I’ve had with an officer was professional and business like that it was “few bad apples” and not institutionalized racism.

    The events of the past week have shown me that it’s not that the system is broken it’s that it’s working as designed. I just get to be the person that it’s working for. The question is what do I do now. I don’t know yet but I do know that everyone should have the opportunities I do.

    1. Elliott Kay Post author

      Acknowledging privilege and that effect on you is an important first step. Nobody’s saying you’re a bad person for it; as you say, others should have that privilege, too.

      As for what now, off the top of my head:
      Donate to bail funds in cities where these protests are happening. Here’s Las Vegas, where the need is apparently great right now: but you can Google others.

      Look up some stuff about how to be a good ally. Understand there’s a lot of frustration and anger to hear in all of that. It might feel personal. It’s on us to suck that up, because us taking some hits for understanding and being better is still a whole lot easier than what Black and POC folks have had to deal with. If you go to a protest, please please please follow the lead of Black organizers. Look up some stuff on how to prepare for a protest, too, because you need to look out for yourself.

      These protests are immediate, but grappling with this goes beyond the immediate. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo is a good place to start:
      Or basically anything by Ta-Nehisi Coates is worth reading right now, too. Between the World and Me is one of the best things I’ve ever read:

  3. Robert Freeman


    Now I understand why GI IV was nowhere near as good as 1-3. When an artist cares more about getting their message out than making a quality product their artwork inevitably suffers. I hope the trend doesn’t continue.

    P.S. None of that stuff actually helps black people. Maybe I’ll see you at the youth center this week and together we can try and break a black youth out of the perpetual cycle of black on black violence through knowledge and compassion. But I doubt it. You don’t get any internet good boy feels for doing something like that.

    1. Dave Black

      Why am I not surprised that people who claim to dislike “Past Due” are also those who appear to dislike Mr. Kay’s political views. In terms of “None of that stuff actually helps black people,” to what “stuff” are you referring? The large-scale protests (with not enough people wearing masks) showing that many people can no longer look the other way at unnecessary police brutality? The author reaching out to an audience with a message doesn’t make a difference? You can’t say that maybe he won’t change even one person’s mind. Even if it’s one person, that’s an improvement.

      1. Robert Freeman

        Well actually I was referring to the donation sites he posted and the “books” he referred the first poster to but you could also say the protests don’t help either. Because they don’t. Anyway, charities only have to legally donate 0.97% of their income (the money that gets donated to them) and the bail sites have spent between 200-300k–of the 23 million donated–on bailing out protesters. The rest goes to ceo’s, campaign donations, employees, etcetera. So, if you don’t want to waste your money making some a-hole richer or contributing to a politicians campaign without your knowledge you’re better off going down and bailing out protesters yourself. In regards to the books linked; one is about classism not racism and the other is blind hatred. If you want to make things worse you’d read those.

        The protests don’t help either. Even the ones that are actually peaceful. All those people are protesting a symptom of a problem for some internet pats on the back. As I said I never see any of them down at the youth center trying to actually help (although them going there might be just as bad seeing as how blatantly ignorant they all seem to be) because that isn’t “trendy”. Breaking the cycle of black on black violence starts with educating the youth.

        Mr. Kay is a science fiction fantasy writer. His most recent book suffered because he decided to spend more effort putting his political views in than writing a good story. This would be (and all to frequently is) the case for any artist with any viewpoint. They’re his books and he can write them however he wants but it’s very dishonest to the fans to take an established series and make it a soapbox. As for changing peoples minds? I can’t say if it would be an improvement or not seeing as how staggeringly misinformed he seems to be.

        1. Keith Huntington

          You used the term “cycle of black on black violence” in two separate posts, which makes me think you’re being very intentional about trying to create that strawman. These current protects aren’t about black-on-black violence, so they aren’t trying to address or solve THAT issue. The recent protests are more about “cop-on-black violence” and “society-on-black violence”, which does need to be addressed.

          FWIW, I loved his fourth entry in the series. I agree that the world needs more nazi-punching. Punching nazi’s should be a national sport! “Always punch the nazis” is a great credo.

          1. Robert Freeman

            Lol. Am I being trolled right now? Calling something that’s supported by mountains a data a strawman then listing obvious strawmen as the real issues to be addressed with a straight face? I guess I won’t see you down at the youth center either.

            I know what the protests are about. Anyone with half an eye, a quarter of an ear, and living on the moon knows what the protests are about. Thanks for either not reading or not comprehending apparently anything I said. They are protesting a symptom of the problem. Symptom. A physical or mental feature which is regarded as indicating a condition of disease. Not the actual problem.

            Sure. If you find an actual nazi punch away. Although, I suspect you follow the redefined definition of nazi: “anyone I disagree with”.

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