Violent protesting has recently been a topic of debate, especially after a video of Richard Spencer getting punched went viral. Many have been considering the morality of punching Nazis or damaging property, such as broken windows. The issue here is that many are not fully understanding just how real the danger is.
This violence is not reckless or inconsiderate; rather, it functions as a backlash and a warning. The systems that are being put in place are violent toward a majority of people: there is systemic income inequality which only grows, women’s reproductive rights are debated as if the women were not even here, water quality is sacrificed for profit, indigenous voices are ignored — the list goes on. These people have every right to retaliate, even if only to be heard.
Especially with the denial of many people's visas, as well as the real push for construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall increasing, taking action to retaliate and warn is absolutely necessary. Actions and gatherings in solidarity with Muslims and Latin Americans to let them know there are large, visible numbers of people who will not act inconsiderately and hatefully toward them is important.
The damage done to inanimate objects in the crossfire will not be remembered in 50 years, but injustices toward people, especially the life-changing ones like denied visas, will be. Damage to things is not violence.
As far as punching Nazis and the like goes, it is somewhat easy to claim that their views could be changed with debate since the majority of people do not deal with Nazis on a regular basis. In ignorance one may think that they are less dangerous than they are misguided. However, this is false.
They are extremely dangerous. Just a few days ago, Spencer tweeted a comic with a Nazi guard saying to someone behind a fence, “Honestly, we weren’t even interested in concentration camps, but people would not stop punching us.” The comic was captioned, “What goes around…”; not only does this put concentration camps on the table, it also insinuates that with enough provocation, such things become legitimate.
In case you have interpreted that as a reason to stop the punching, step back, because punching a person or multiple people will never warrant or justify genocide. Never.
The aim of violence toward Nazis is to make them afraid to organize because when they organize, they have the power to achieve their goals. Their goals will never be legitimate; to silence them is not to prevent free speech because calling their speech equal is to legitimize their beliefs as options.
Again, a prominent member of the alt-right casually joked about concentration camps as revenge. They are not your racist uncles. They are far more dangerous, and they will not be stopped with words. From Hitler himself, “Only one thing could have stopped our movement — if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement.”
To say that breaking windows and punching racists is going too far is to trivialize the struggles these groups of people have to endure daily. It is deliberate passivity, accepting systemic violence due to its coming from a source of authority and rejecting it from those affected due to its lack thereof.
It lacks empathy, favoring the tense but predictable status quo over the survival and livelihood of real, living, breathing human beings with as many dreams and as many sharp eyes as anyone doing the ignoring.
To say that pure nonviolence can work when fascists were just given a high concentration of power is historically ignorant and dangerous. Violence is, unfortunately, sometimes necessary, as self-defense on both the individual and systemic scales and as prevention of fascist organizing. Of course, this is not to say that nonviolent methods are always ineffective. It is to say they are ineffective alone, especially in these circumstances. In these circumstances, punch Nazis.