How ‘Violent’ Is Property Damage?

Jun 5, 2020

Police stand by as a garbage can burns in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday, May 31, 2020. It was the second day of protests in the North Carolina capital following the death of Minnesotan George Floyd while in police custody.
Credit (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

Do looting and property damage subvert the movement against police violence? Or do rubber bullets in response to material destruction expose law enforcement’s prioritization of private property over human life? 

While four in five people in the U.S. believe peaceful protests are an appropriate response to a police killing of an unarmed black man, the same number believes that property damage undermines the movement. Yet the damage goes both ways. Less-lethal weapons are not innocuous — police have blinded people with rubber bullets, and tear gas and sonic cannons can sometimes cause lasting damage.

Is it worth hurting people in order to protect property?

Evidenced by their enforcement tactics, the City of Raleigh appears to say yes; Durham says no. Demonstrations were met with starkly different policing in the neighboring cities.

Watch live (Friday, June 5 starting at 1:00) - Summit between protesters and Durham Sheriff and City Police Chief

Host Frank Stasio hears about those responses from Durham Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson, along with a protest organizer and local business owners. Stasio also speaks with Blue Ridge Public Radio News Director Matt Bush about the Asheville Police Department destroying a protester medical station and deploying tear gas four nights in a row.

Watch Asheville Police stab protesters' water bottles