This weekend, Pittsburgh diners were harassed by Black Lives Matter protestors whose outrageous actions did nothing to advance racial justice and equality, but were simply thuggish intimidation tactics.

The confrontation was caught on video and is going viral. As diners sat outside within a fenced patio area demonstrators, who were part of a BLM protest rally marching past, decided to interrupt their meals.

One protestor used his bullhorn to yell directly at (white) diners that they are an “embarrassment” causing them to quickly leave their tables.

Another protestor crossed into the fenced-off dining area to come closer and yell at an elderly white couple as they dined.  

“F*ck 12 and f*ck white people! You old d*ck!” 

The couple didn’t appear to respond.

In a dramatic scene, another protestor entered the gated area, went up to the couple’s table, snatched a glass of drink, and drank it. (I guess you can’t drink coronavirus, but you can certainly spread or catch it by touching other people’s property.)

In the background, the parade of protestors continues marching and singing “no justice, no peace” while glass is heard shattering around the diners.

The BLM protests have been a mix of peaceful protest and violent rioting, looting, and destructive behavior. 

While intimidating elderly people is a mild example of the types of the outlandish and violent incidents that have occurred since the first wave of protests began following the shooting death of George Floyd, these episodes paint this movement as very different from the peaceful and positive demonstrations of the 1950s and 1960s that won over Americans to the cause of greater equality.

Souring Public Views on BLM

The public’s perceptions of these protests are increasingly growing more pessimistic. 

In June, according to an IPSOS/Reuters poll, two out of three Americans were sympathetic to those protesting.

In a Morning Consult poll at that time, 45 percent of respondents said that on whole most of the protesters are peaceful and desire meaningful social reform, but a surprising 42 percent said most protestors are trying to incite violence or destroy property.

Overwhelming majorities of men and women across demographics think it’s more important to protect private property such as businesses and retail from looting and damage than say it’s important to protect the rights of protestors and demonstrators to assemble. This is shocking since we are talking about a fundamental constitutional right.

Most telling, in the IPSOS poll a whopping 79 percent of Americans said that the property damage caused by some demonstrators undermines the original cause of the demonstrators: justice in George Floyd’s death. This is true for both Republicans (83 percent) and Democrats (77 percent).

As violent behavior continues and moves from large cities to suburban areas, we can only imagine how perceptions of the BLM protests may sour. That’s not to say Americans will stop supporting equality, but this specific movement.

Riots Don’t Advance the Cause

To a small minority of Americans, violence and unrest are an appropriate response to Geroge Floyd’s death. Lately, people are quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said: “a riot is the language of the unheard.” 

However, they should read his entire speech, entitled ‘The Other America,’ because King was not advocating for arson, looting, vandalism, and rioting, but asking America to listen to the cries against the conditions that have given rise to the riots.

Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. I’m still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and justice. I feel that violence will only create more social problems than they will solve. That in a real sense it is impracticable for the Negro to even think of mounting a violent revolution in the United States. So I will continue to condemn riots, and continue to say to my brothers and sisters that this is not the way. And continue to affirm that there is another way.

But at the same time, it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots.”

Equality of opportunity, jobs, economic mobility, and fair treatment in the justice system are important goals to push for in America, but they won’t be achieved by accosting patrons and drinking their beer out of their glasses. Looting and burning down the pharmacies, grocery stores, and restaurants that employ Americans and meet their day-to-day needs will only leave these communities worse off.