Letter: Summer of Rebellion


Ivana Martinez

The Party for Socialism and Liberation Salt Lake hold protest at the Wallace Bennett Federal Building demanding the defunding of SLCPD on June 9, 2020. (Photo by Ivana Martinez | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Chandler Peterson


On June 2, 2021, Joe Biden, the President of the United States, released a brief praising the U.S. effort in vaccinating America and declared that America is heading into the summer of freedom from COVID-19.

The White House planned to invite 1,000 essential workers and military families to watch overhead fireworks on the Fourth of July.

With the constant reassurance that progress is being made, people are getting back to work and vaccination rates are climbing, it is difficult to tell there is a storm brewing on the horizon.

The government has succeeded in, albeit temporarily, suppressing the anxiety, fear and growing frustrations of the American people. After the previous 4 years of political turmoil, it is an automatic reaction for the new administration to become suspiciously positive, quiet, boring and dismissive.

In honoring the 244th anniversary of Independence Day, people ought to remember the most revered sentence of the Declaration of Independence, “That to secure these rights [life, liberty and pursuit of happiness], Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form.”

Credited to the fiasco of the previous administration, there has been a rapid increase in political participation amongst the population.

According to the Pew Research Center, turnout in the 2020 presidential election rose to near two-thirds of eligible voters casting their ballot for president. That was a 7% increase from the 2016 election and a staggering 12.4% increase from the 2000 presidential election.

It is clear the voter population is becoming more involved with their governance. That is why legislation is being passed to prevent equitable access to voting for millions of Americans. It is disguised under the sentiment that through mail-in ballots, fraud will increase, but, really, it’s the thought of expanding voting to every eligible American — which may even out the playing field — that drives these modern Jim Crow laws. 

Not limited to the ballot box, participation in civil disobedience has spiked across the country. Something not new to the U.S. or to the Black people living there, police brutality has called for unrest that has been compared to the 1992 LA Riots.

Every week there was a new Black person being killed or maimed by the police in the name of law and order, and it has been met with fiery demonstrations each time. The police departments, the district attorneys’ offices, and the governors’ offices issue apologies and point fingers, but ultimately do nothing to address the fundamental concerns of the people. 

Since May 8, 2020, there have been many protests against police brutality. The George Floyd protests resulted in $500 million in property damage in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. This does not count the supportive protests that broke out in cities across the nation, including the one here in Salt Lake City that resulted in a police car being burned.

These protests do not count the previous teacher demonstrations, where teachers across the nation held out for better wages. It does not count the protests for COVID-19 safety precautions for businesses, schools and hospitals, where health service members called attention to policies that left them exposed to and unprotected from COVID-19.

The current cult of personality has forgotten about inmates protesting for their rights and Amazon workers striking for hazard pay and safety precautions in their warehouses. 

Indeed, Americans are increasingly organizing to fight for what they believe is a right to pursue.

Happiness, and, what the government realizes but does not want you to know, is that organization. People organizing is a power that a government cannot suppress, and, to preserve the current status quo, they will pull out all the stops to prevent change from occurring.

The ruling class will divide the people, using old tools like racism and propaganda, and they will find a way to twist new tools, like data collection, to figure out where they can be the most effective. 

In a recent surprise, President Biden signed legislation into law establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day. He even acknowledged the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 and visited the memorial, to speak to living survivors. Although it is refreshing to see a standing U.S. President create accountability, it is hard not to see the dismissive pattern. 

It is a stark contrast to the picture being painted by the White House: to shock the economy and put the people back to work, while the picture painted by the people is organizing to fight the indifferences set upon them. Concessions are made here and there to quell the rebellion that grows, but there is something in the air that calls for a break in the chain.

To honor the growing civil disobedience, especially shown by the Black community, there are two quotes of interest, one being from the legendary Langston Hughes’ poem, Harlem: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?… Or does it explode?” and the other being from the late John Lewis’s original written speech given on August 28th, 1963: “In good conscience, we cannot support the administration’s civil rights bill, for it is too little and too late… There is not one thing in the bill that will protect our people from police brutality… We cannot depend on any political party, for both the Democrats and Republicans have betrayed the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence… The time will come when we will not confine our marching to Washington. We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way [General William] Sherman did. We shall pursue our own “scorched earth” policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground — nonviolently… We will make the action of the past few months look petty. And I say to you, WAKE UP AMERICA!”

So, is the United States heading into a summer of freedom and joy, or are we heading towards a summer of rebellion? One can only speculate, but, from observation, it seems the balance will favor the rebel voices of the new generation. 


— Chandler Peterson, University of Utah student

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