Will It Be Riot Season Again in 2024?
Conservatives must learn the lessons of 2020—and prepare.
The resurgence of public protests in support of Hamas has revealed a disturbing truth: the left-wing rioting following George Floyd’s death in 2020 was not an anomaly, but a tactic that activists can repurpose for any cause. Whether by coincidence or design, these recent outbursts could be a dress rehearsal for possible violence during next year’s election campaign.
Conservative leaders must prepare for that prospect. To prevent 2020 from repeating itself in 2024, conservatives need to consider what might spark a riot, how it can be prevented, and how to understand and manage the politics of rioting.
First, what could generate a riot season? Left-wing agitation has some familiar causes: a police-involved death of a black person; an international conflict; an economic crisis. But another threat looms. Former president Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, faces multiple criminal indictments. Trump may well be convicted and imprisoned, likely yielding explosive consequences, including possible violence from both sides of the ideological divide.
Progressives are restless and ready. Left-wing activists have established a constellation of institutions to support public demonstrations. Protest NGOs, media entities, research centers, black-bloc (Antifa) networks, and bail funds are all finely tuned to mobilize mass movements. The Left carefully manages its licit and illicit factions: progressive political leaders tacitly delegate the dirty work to anarchist and racialist factions, which can change costumes—for example, from a BLM mask to a Palestinian keffiyeh—at any moment.
Red-state governors should start preparing now. They should instruct state law enforcement to establish interagency task forces to monitor, infiltrate, and disrupt violent left-wing activist networks to the fullest extent permitted by law. If they uncover illegal activity, they should make arrests and prosecute offenders. As I have observed in the Pacific Northwest, these groups are relatively small and depend on specific leadership nodes. They make little effort to hide their goal of overthrowing America’s basic institutions and their willingness to use political violence to do so. Law enforcement should follow a simple mantra: disrupt the nodes, disrupt the network. The invisible work of prevention is far superior to a public fight during a potential riot.