The nonviolence so heralded in studies of protest has lost its strategic effectiveness; nonviolence has become, not a strategy in the pursuit of justice, but an end in itself, a telos. In order to better conceptualize violence and nonviolence in the contemporary rhetoric of social protest, this essay provides a review and critique of prominent rhetorical studies of protest violence that have placed violent tactics solely in the service of nonviolence. Rhetorical scholars are in a unique position to reconsider and reframe understandings of violence and nonviolence in social protest that persist both in rhetorical studies and in the popular imagination about how social change can and should happen. Violence and nonviolence have too often been divorced from the white supremacist history and context in which they operate, particularly in the United States—creating meaning structures that make the violent protest tactics deployed by non-dominant groups culturally illegible. This essay works to reframe the violent tactics most commonly deployed in the current moment by arguing that the looting, property destruction, and even the direct physical violence that is most often associated with various Leftist and anti-racist activists can work strategically to challenge the police-State's monopoly on violence. Drawing out the implications of these interconnected points, the essay provides a more nuanced understanding of violent tactics that can both help restore the disruptive function of protest rhetoric and better challenge white supremacy in the service of justice.

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