Guest Editorials, Opinion

Violent radical left helps feed radical right’s narrative

The violent protest against the construction of a police training center in Atlanta exemplifies how little the radical left has learned since the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. Violence and destruction couched as civil disobedience, regardless of the claimed justification, rarely if ever yields the kind of societal or political change the instigators seek. 

The city of Atlanta is investing $90 million to construct an 85-acre training facility in a forested area. Some of the radical-left protesters are opposed to the destruction of trees as part of the site clearance. Others, labeling the facility “Cop City,” contend that the training center is a symbol of police oppression. They compare it to the Georgia-based School of the Americas, where the United States trained Latin American military officers loyal to dictatorial regimes. Many trainees were subsequently linked to human rights violations. The police training center, protesters contend, would result in oppression of Blacks, Latinos and other minorities. 

As with most radical agendas, the facts rarely align with such wild assertions. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who is Black, insists that the training facility would be used to stop police abuses by teaching officers coping strategies. “Our training includes vital areas like de-escalation training techniques, mental health, community-oriented policing, crisis intervention training, as well as civil rights history education,” he stated earlier this year. 

Radical protesters, never known for listening to reason, swarmed to the site last weekend and set fire to construction vehicles before attacking police with fireworks, explosives and Molotov cocktails. In a previous confrontation in January, officers fatally shot a protester, and a Georgia state trooper was wounded. 

Police arrested 23 protesters and charged them with domestic terrorism — a charge that should have applied equally to the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum doesn’t buy the contention that the police center protesters were merely engaging in civil disobedience. “When you throw commercial-grade fireworks, when you throw Molotov cocktails, large rocks, a number of items at officers, your only intent is to harm,” he said. 

Regardless of how the radicals fare at trial, they have done irreparable harm on the political front as well. The radical right is seeking justification for everything its followers do, and they draw from protests like the Atlanta one to recruit like-minded people and assert that now’s the time to mobilize and fight leftist radicalism. Videos of the Atlanta violence will almost certainly become part of the radical right’s narrative. 

Both sides will grow more vocal and steadily chip away at America’s moderate middle. The violence and destruction are sad enough, but the deepening wedge it helps drive among Americans should be a far bigger concern. 

This editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.