Port: It's easy to support violence when it's not happening to you

Despite America's lengthy history of peaceful reform and progress, violent extremism has become quite chic, of late, for our friends on the left.

Graffiti was also spray painted on many buildings in downtown Fargo during the riots on Saturday, May 30. C.S. Hagen / The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — " Only riots, burning result in action," reads the headline over a column by former North Dakota Lt. Gov. Lloyd Omdahl.

That's a remarkable statement, albeit a fashionable one at this moment.

Despite America's lengthy history of peaceful reform and progress, violent extremism has become quite chic, of late, for our friends on the left.

Though I wonder how committed people like Omdahl are to this concept?

The protests sparked by the death of George Floyd have turned some communities into battlezones, and it's not just white people who are paying the price. Many of the people hurt, either physically or economically, are minorities themselves.


I suspect, given the geography of where the most violence has occurred, that minorities are probably suffering from it disproportionately compared to affluent whites.

Including affluent white liberals who take to opinion sections and social media to support the violence, an easy thing to do when it's other people's lives and property at risk.

Omdahl could perhaps learn a thing or two from sports reporter Chris Palmer. On May 28, he took to Twitter to cheer on Black Lives Matter protesters as they torched a building. By May 31, he was chagrined to see the violence had come near his neighborhood, and he feared for his own life and property:

On June 1, Palmer posted an apology for supporting violence. "I do not endorse property destruction of any kind. Real protestors don't loot. Peaceful protest is the only way," he wrote.

I hope it doesn't take violence to change Omdahl's mind, as it did for Palmer, but then, unlike Omdahl, I'm not a proponent of using force as a persuasion tactic.

The problem with endorsing violence as a valid political tactic is that, once you open that door for one passionate movement, it's hard to close it for others.

If Black Lives Matter is justified in using violence, what about other causes?


The pro-life, anti-abortion movement is passionate about their issue, too. They feel that abortion clinics across the country have ended the lives of millions of babies unjustly. They'd like to see those abortion clinics shut down.

Are they justified in using violence, too? Can they riot and burn down abortion clinics? Does it hinge on whether you or I or Lloyd Omdahl agree with them?

Who among us gets to decide which political movements are justified in using violence and which are not?

We run into this conundrum in free speech debates quite often. People defend controversial and even offensive speech when it is in pursuit of goals they support, but the true test of our commitment to free speech is whether we're willing to tolerate speech, which makes us angry. Which seeks to accomplish things we don't want.

Will people like Omdahl allow that violence is ok for movements they oppose?

If not, then aren't they hypocrites?

I'm not sure why proponents of the Black Live Matters movement even want to use violence as a tactic.

Political movements are most sustainable when they persuade. Political movements that foment change through fear and intimidation might find some immediate success but generally aren't sustainable.


Do we want people to support racial equality because they've concluded it's the right thing to do, or because they're scared not to?

Revolutionaries founded both America and the Soviet Union, but America (admittedly, imperfectly) built its government on high-minded principles such as the consent of the governed.

The Soviets built theirs on fear of what might happen to you if you didn't support the Communist Party.

Which of those two political models has stood the test of time?

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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