The Boulder riot could have been a lot worse
I am a glass full kind of guy. So when I saw rioting at my alma mater — and the very appropriate condemnation that followed — I naturally looked for some silver lining. While the students responsible did not give me much to cheer, what I saw from the police reaction gave me cause for hope.
From every account I have seen, Boulder police did not rush the crowd or engage with force or shoot tear gas. They did not escalate tensions through a display of strength.
Given what we saw from police forces across the country last year, including here in Colorado, that seems to be a significant improvement. It is a living demonstration of large, complex organizations internalizing lessons from past events.
The mass protests last year were overwhelmingly peaceful and based on a collective political will to change institutions of systematic, institutionalized racial disparity. The Boulder riots were a chemical reaction of youthful stupidity mixed with alcohol.
There is also the obvious difference in privilege. The BLM protests were organized and led by communities of color, primarily from the Black community, along with allies. The protests highlighted disparities in privilege. Pictures from the Boulder riots portray a mob of young, white students engaged in a bacchanalian display of privilege.
It would be legitimate to point out these differences in circumstance and question whether they constituted the difference in police reaction. But that explanation seems to overlook the potential for growth and change in police behavior, the precise outcome last year’s protests sought to affect.
It would also ignore historical perspective.