This post is about the protests and riots taking place in Hong Kong, but I’m going to start with a question first and attempt to answer it.
What would happen in the United States if thousands of protestors swarmed Washington Dulles International Airport or flooded Wall Street in New York City?
To find out, I turned to history. After all, we can learn from what has already happened, right?
CNBC.com reports, “In 1863, citizens were drafted to serve on the Union side in the Civil War. … Resentment at the situation eventually resulted in rioting, but those taking part soon targeted African-Americans, and large numbers were lynched in the streets and had their homes destroyed. President Lincoln sent militia regiments to pacify the city, and by the fourth day the uprising was crushed decisively. … Figures vary between 120 and 2000 people killed …”
“Activists blocked traffic at major intersections … police responded by firing tear gas, pepper spray and, eventually, rubber bullets, to disperse the crowds … Protesters responded by destroying storefronts, pushing flaming dumpsters into intersections and slashing the tires of police cars. Ultimately, 600 people were arrested, chief of police Norm Stamper stepped down and the vandalism caused $20 million in damages.”
New York City 1977
“The 1977 blackout, which affected only New York City, was marred by pervasive arson and looting. … All told, over 1,600 stores were damaged, over 1,000 fires were reported and 3,776 people were arrested, the largest mass arrest in city history.”
“It was a reaction to the fatal police shooting of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas, who was attempting to escape from police officers on foot.” On the 3rd night of rioting, it rained. “The precipitation stopped the violence in its tracks and limited the damage to $3.6 million.”
“When the violence dissipated five days later, property damage was estimated to be between $40 million to $80 million.”
“Arson was so extensive that the fires exceeded the capabilities of the city’s fire department, so many buildings burned to the ground. Many that didn’t were so badly damaged that they had to be torn down, rendering hundreds of people homeless and costing more than $10 million in damages.”
“The situation degenerated into widespread violence that didn’t fully die down until six days later, at a cost of $40 million and 34 lives. The unrest would stand as the worst such case in Los Angeles history until the 1992 riots 27 years later.”
“The account proved to be false, but the rioting took on a life of its own regardless, and persisted for six long days, resulting in 26 fatalities and $10 million worth of property damage.”
Los Angeles 1992
“Thousands responded to the verdict by engaging in widespread arson, assault and looting, killing 53 people and injuring thousands more. The unrest went on for six days and did not die down until the National Guard was deployed to the area. When it was all over, more than 1000 buildings had been destroyed by fire, and most assessments of the damage put its cost at almost $1 billion, making it the costliest episode by far of civil unrest in United States history.”
Now, back to Hong Kong. Vox.com reports, “9 questions about the Hong Kong protests you were too embarrassed to ask … Protesters filled Hong Kong International airport two weeks ago. … They carried signs and decorated the walls and floors with messages explaining why they’re rallying, disrupting the transit hub. … The airport protests encapsulated months of turmoil in Hong Kong. Weekly demonstrations and sit-ins have at times turned tense and violent when police arrive spraying tear gas and rubber bullets.”
What is happening in Hong Kong has happened before, all over the world, not just the U.S. and HK.
When there are demonstrations in the United States, police and demonstrators also clash as tensions escalate.
Therefore, if the rioter and protesters in Hong Kong are led by alleged pro-democracy advocates, what do we call the rioters and protestors in the United States that is allegedly a democracy?
Do we call them anti-democracy advocates or are they all, in HK and the U.S., just thugs that are out of control?
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.