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Coming to a City Near You

by Gila Hayes

Between the upcoming general election, strong feelings about politics, race, abortion, support for Israel, Palestine or Ukraine, or any of the other emotional topics ranging from economics to the environment, spring will bring with it a resurgence of demonstrations and rallies. Before grabbing your placard and heading down to the public square, ask yourself these questions:

Is attending worth my life? 

Does a demonstration really influence public opinion? 

Can I wield greater influence in some other way?

Memories are fading of the lawless summer months of 2020 that put the spotlight on violent protests. Now, as people want to go back into the streets, some deny the risk that others who hold opposing opinions may decide to fight them.

After all, BLM is no longer making the news; the anarchists in the big cities aren’t rioting and fighting police every weekend. As spring nears, consider reports from the end of last year and ask yourself if the danger truly has abated.

Researcher John Lott publishes information on defensive gun use that regularly catches my attention. In part of his extensive website (, he posts thumbnail sketches of defensive gun uses by private citizens. The numbers for which he is finding news reports run 20 to 25 a month, from what I can see. While I know the reality of under reporting about legitimate self defense in the general news stream and secondly, acknowledging the reality that many survivors simply will not call police after using a gun without shooting to stop an attack, I like to read his research.

Lott’s end-of-2023 report at got me thinking about the coming spring and summer rallies and demonstrations. His reports mentioned two incidents that led me to ponder the topic.

One involved shots fired when pro-Palestinian demonstrators mobbed an Israel solidarity event in a Chicago suburb. Police and prosecutors decline to charge the shooter, acknowledging the necessity for self defense, I was happily surprised to read.

Guns came out at a similar demonstration in Eugene, OR, where a Free Palestine march was blocked by a masked counter-protester who jumped out of his truck when someone reportedly slashed one of his truck’s tires. He fired into the oncoming crowd with what was later claimed to be only a realistic-looking splatter ball gun, but the guns pointed at him by two other marchers were very real indeed.

I am surprised that the Oregon incident didn’t devolve into shots fired, in light of the strong emotions expressed by all the factions involved. Don’t underestimate the chaos sure to be present when large numbers of emotional people tangle! A man was shot in New Mexico in late September when angry demonstrators fought about a statue of an historic figure, of all things!

As armed citizens, we tend to focus on defensive gun use, and ignore – to our detriment, I fear – the simple danger of being trampled or physically assaulted or even hurt by thrown objects when a melee erupts over such emotional issues as happened in mid-November outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

Look for more politicized violence as the election nears. Right now, Israel’s fight to eliminate Hamas – and America’s response – is fueling most of the demonstrations, some of which turn violent. In the months to come, the general election looms large.

Will presidential hopeful Donald Trump be convicted before the general election? That could get interesting. City Journal columnist Christopher Rufo warned in December of violence from “both sides of the ideological divide” should Trump be convicted and jailed. Beyond that potential flash point, conditions are ripe for another season of riots. The same columnist wrote, “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.” (See )

Right now, before the firestorm of big demonstrations and rallies-turned-into-riots re-ignites, it is the time to think through questions of “what’s right” and “what’s productive.” Demagogues, preachers, charismatic business leaders, politicians and others in position of influence love to stir up emotions and feelings of responsibility to “create change.” They’re going to be fine! Their protection details are nearby to whisk them away when the first brick or bottle gets thrown or the first shot rings out. If you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with a mass of screaming people, or even on the outskirts of the crowd when it turns and runs in your direction, you may not be as well-off as the leader who encouraged you to be there.

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