How to make a peaceful demonstration violent, 1940

Picket lines are too often associated with violence, and it is true that as in Boston, an opposing party may suddenly spring in among you, wrest the signs from your hands, and by the use of force, infect others to use force. The very effort to hold on to signs, to resist being choked to death when the sign hangs around your neck, gives the appearance of participation in violence, and the police enter in then and contribute their share. From a peaceful, orderly demonstration I have seen a picket line become in one second a rioting mob. There is always the feel of it in the air, the threat of it. There is always the passer-by who contributes his share, “Why don’t you get in their and rough ’em up!” to the crowd gathered on the other side of the streets watching for trouble. 

And of course we were all accused of being communists and socialists.

1940

Dorothy Day on Bitterness and Despair

The battle at home now is to conquer the bitterness, the sense of futility and despair that grows among the young and turns them to violence, a violence which is magnified by the press, the radio and television. We lose sight of the poor people’s cooperatives and boycotts, the conquest of bread, as Kropotkin called it, which goes on daily in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, not to speak of California, Texas, and all the states where Mexicans have been imported for agricultural labor.

The Catholic Worker, February 1969