On the 63rd night of riots in Portland, antifa rioters set a bonfire in front of the federal courthouse. Since they care so much about the death of George Floyd, they decided to burn Bibles. Seriously, they threw copies of the Bible on the fire.
According to Portland Police, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Justice Center to give speeches. At about 10:30 p.m., the speeches ended and people congregated in front of the federal courthouse. “Some lit fires, climbed the fence outside the federal courthouse, threw objects and chanted.” At about 1:30 a.m., rioters started a bonfire in front of the courthouse.
It appears that they burned the Bibles early on in the bonfire.
The video of burning Bibles traces back to RT, an outlet funded in whole or in part by the Russian government. Even so, the 4-hour 45-minute video clearly shows the protest in Portland from an eyewitness perspective. RT is not a reliable source, but that does not invalidate an RT reporter’s in-person video of an event.
It remains unclear exactly why the antifa rioters decided to burn the Bibles, but it seems rather ironic for a “peaceful protest” supposedly in honor of George Floyd, a man who helped spread the gospel in Houston, Texas.
Burning the Bible does not honor George Floyd’s legacy, but it does fit with the anti-Western and anti-American Marxist critical theory fueling the violent riots.
Portland activist Lilith Sinclair explained the mentality behind her “protest:” “There’s still a lot of work to undo the harm of colonized thought that has been pushed onto Black and indigenous communities.” As examples of “colonized thought,” she mentioned Christianity and the “gender binary.” She said she organizes for “the abolition of … the “United States as we know it.”
Marxist critical theory encourages people to deconstruct various aspects of society — such as capitalism, science the nuclear family, the Judeo-Christian tradition, even expectations of politeness (as the Smithsonian briefly taught) — as examples of white oppression. This inspires an aimless and destructive revolution.
When vandals toppled a statue of George Washington in Portland, they spray-painted “1619” on the statue, in reference to The New York Times‘ “1619 Project,” which redefines America as fundamentally racist and oppressive. When Claremont’s Charles Kesler wrote in The New York Post “Call them the 1619 riots,” Hannah-Jones, responded (in a since-deleted tweet) that “it would be an honor” to claim responsibility for the destructive riots and the defamation of American Founding Fathers like George Washington.
In a November 9, 1995 op-ed, the 1619 Project founder condemned Christopher Columbus as “no different” from Adolf Hitler and demonized the “white race” as the true “savages” and “bloodsuckers.” She went on to describe “white America’s dream” as “colored America’s nightmare.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) expressed a similar sentiment when she called for the “dismantling” of America’s “economy and political system,” in order to root out supposed racist oppression.
Yet the “1619 riots” have arguably oppressed black people far more than the U.S. supposedly does. The riots have destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 22 Americans have died in the riots, most of them black.
Burning the Bible fits this destructive narrative, and it also provides yet another powerful contrast with the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Rather than burning Bibles, Martin Luther King Jr. quoted them, in order to galvanize peaceful protesters and shame the segregationists who opposed them. Rather than attempting to burn down federal courthouses, King appealed the consciences of Americans — using the very Bible that Portland rioters burned.
The Bibles that Portland rioters burned also inspired the abolitionist movement of the 1800s, a movement that culminated in the abolition of slavery. Abraham Lincoln even quoted the Bible in his second inaugural address, explaining that God brought the Civil War on America as punishment for the horrible evil of slavery:
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
It appears the rioters have decided to tone down the violence somewhat, after Gov. Kate Brown (D-Ore.) agreed to send some Oregon State Police to protect the federal courthouse, leading the federal government to pull back some officers. Brown is claiming a victory over the riots — that peace has ensued with the withdrawal of federal officers. Yet on Thursday night, rioters burned a severed pig’s head with a police hat on it, and on Friday they burned Bibles.
While the rioters did not set off mortar fireworks at the federal courthouse, it appears they persisted in lighting fires with the intention of burning it down. The contrast to Martin Luther King Jr.’s sit-ins could not be more apparent.
These rioters are not “peaceful protesters” and they are not protesting the horrific police death of George Floyd. They are agitating against American society itself. They oppose law enforcement in its entirety, and they are even willing to burn the Bible in a statement about rejecting America’s heritage.
This does not just represent an attack on George Floyd’s legacy, the legacy of the civil rights movement, and the legacy of the abolitionist movement. The noxious ideology of these rioters also undermines the positive aspects of America and encourages hatred toward the very country that provides its citizens with an unprecedented degree of freedom and prosperity. It encourages violent riots in the name of racial justice, even though those riots make life concretely worse for black Americans.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.