But there is nothing compassionate about rescinding DACA for Mohammad Abdollahi. Iranian, gay, and a DACA recipient, Abdollahi would be in extreme danger if he were deported to a country that carries out the death penalty for “repeated acts” of homosexuality.
Yet since 2010, Abdollahi has been arrested repeatedly — each time risking deportation — while staging peaceful rallies with other young, undocumented immigrants to pressure politicians into passing immigration reform.
His sit-ins and hunger strikes are “more confrontational,” as Michael May wrote for The American Prospect in 2013, than sympathetic photo-ops of DACA recipients wearing caps and gowns.
His tactics are also not new. They are lifted almost verbatim from the civil rights movement—a movement that was decried in its own time as too extreme.
“Even during that celebrated ‘golden age’ of nonviolent protest, most Americans were against marches and demonstrations,” Michael McBride, Traci Blackmon, Frank Reid and Barbara Williams Skinner wrote in an op-ed for this week’s The New York Times. As they remind us:
A 1961 Gallup poll revealed that 57 percent of the public thought that lunch counter sit-ins and other demonstrations would hurt integration efforts. A 1963 poll showed that 60 percent had an unfavorable feeling toward the planned March on Washington, where Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. A year later, 74 percent said that since black people had made some progress, they should stop their demonstrations; and by 1969, 74 percent said that marching, picketing and demonstrations were hurting the civil rights cause.
Today as in the 1960s, it is easy for moderate Americans to see any disruption of the status quo as going “too far.”
But as McBride, Blackmon, Reid and Williams Skinner remind us, those protests must continue in order for the fight against injustice to progress.
As the struggle for civil rights continues, it is important not to conflate large, peaceful protests against white supremacists with a handful of violent clashes between hate groups and their opponents.
Nevertheless, that is exactly what news outlets have been doing recently. As McBride, Blackmon, Reid and Williams Skinner write:
Even mainstream media outlets that typically fact-check the president seem to have subtly bought into Mr. Trump’s ‘both sides’ narrative regarding right- and left-wing extremism. They’ve run headlines that highlight small violent skirmishes while ignoring the thousands who marched and protested peacefully, to say nothing of the injustices that inspired the protests.
Certainly, all forms of violence are to be condemned, as SPLC Intelligence Project Director Heidi Beirich wrote this summer. When far-right rallies took place last month, SPLC President Richard Cohen made the distinction between peaceful and violent counter-protest.
“In Boston when we saw thousands and thousands of people peacefully protest, that seemed like a much stronger answer to white supremacy than clubs and guns,” Cohen said on Meet the Press.
As Dreamers like Abdollahi try to chart a path forward for immigrant rights, they must be allowed to continue nonviolently protesting this week’s crushing news in ways just as “messy, disorderly, [and] confrontational” as civil rights marchers did with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Or else, as McBride, Blackmon, Reid and Williams Skinner write, “Those standing on the sidelines of the current racial-justice movement, waiting for a pristine or a flawless exercise of righteous protest, will have a long wait.”
As always, thank you for your support,
P.S. Here are some other pieces that we think are worthwhile this week:
- The resegregation of Jefferson County by Nikole Hannah-Jones for The New York Times
- What does an innocent man have to do to go free? Plead guilty by Megan Rose for ProPublica
- The story of Rosa Parks’ Detroit home reveals hard truths about her life in the ‘Northern Promised Land That Wasn’t’ by Jeanne Theoharis for The Root
- How right-wing extremists stalk, dox, and harass their enemies by Micah Lee for The Intercept
SPLC’s Weekend Reads are a weekly summary of the most important reporting and commentary from around the country on civil rights, economic and racial inequity, and hate and extremism. Sign up to receive Weekend Reads every Saturday morning .