Letters to the Editor: Here’s why Joe Biden must condemn rioting, even if peaceful protests don’t work

Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on Sept. 4
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on Sept. 4.
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

To the editor: I understand complaints that former Vice President Joe Biden’s condemnation of rioting and looting distracts from the underlying ills — specifically, the police killings of unarmed Black people, and more broadly, the systemic racism that has gone unaddressed by our society — that have given rise to the unrest and the overwhelmingly peaceful protests in the first place.

Criticizing Biden for condemning the violence, however, misses two points: First, he is absolutely correct to do so. It is, after all, criminal behavior. Second, condemning violence is essential if Biden is to be elected. This is so because between the natural tendency of all news media to devote so much coverage to it and the relentless drumbeat of President Trump and his enablers, rioting and looting are what the voters are seeing and hearing.

And make no mistake: This can and will affect voters’ decisions.

Rioting may be inevitable in a society with so much entrenched and long-lived inequity and injustice, but it still must be condemned. Rioting may in the end be the only thing that will bring about change. Protests that are entirely peaceful, confined to approved places and to approved times, are ineffective. As Frederick Douglas said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

And yet, violence must be condemned by those who lead or, as in Biden’s case, seek to lead. Otherwise, he’ll never get the chance.


David Van Iderstine, Sherman Oaks


To the editor: If I was enraged because the drunken neighbor down the street ran over my son, and I burned down my other neighbor’s house, that would be an inappropriate response.

While reading Erika D. Smith’s column about continued protests, I was frustrated by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah’s quote: “Hearing a Democrat say something like that, like the rioting is crossing the line? Well, killing Black people is also crossing the line.”

Of course, killing Black people is crossing the line, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Rioting and looting and destroying the property of innocent people who might have once supported you are wrong. If every protest was peaceful, people everywhere would be behind it.

The best thing protesters could do right now is to protest peacefully between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and then go home. Anybody left to loot and burn could be arrested without innocent people getting hurt.

Then vote for Biden, get involved with politics and get things changed.

Kathy Concidine, Glendora


To the editor: To ask why white people feel “rioting is crossing the line” and then say “well, killing Black people is also crossing the line” really misses the larger point (and I’m a minority myself). Both are unacceptable.

Those who riot and loot are losing the sympathy of many Americans of all colors who otherwise support peaceful demonstrators’ calls for needed reforms in criminal justice and policing. They are certainly losing me.

Marcia Del Mar, Westlake Village


To the editor: Protests that are called nonviolent must actually be 100% nonviolent. Recent peaceful protests have been marred by instances of violence, obscuring the efforts of the nonviolent protesters.

The march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965 was totally nonviolent. Many of the protesters, included John Lewis, were injured by police. Sometimes, unfortunately, there is a price to be paid when people protest peacefully.

In the protests in Washington over George Floyd’s death in May, rioting broke out and a fire damaged St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House. The result was a violent response by federal forces the following day, when the area was forcefully cleared by police for a presidential photo-op in front of the church.

Although this was disgusting for Trump to do, it definitely rallied many of his supporters. In hindsight, if the demonstration on May 31 had been 100% nonviolent, Trump would have received zero support for what he did the next day.

Even one act of violence in a demonstration that is intended to be peaceful defeats the purpose. Smith writes that violence occured at only 7% of the protests after Floyd’s death, meaning that only 93% of the protests have been nonviolent. Aim for 100% from now on.

Art Oster, Los Alamitos