I think it is humour, lampooning the Imperial policies that led to events like the Amritsar Massacre.
Ah, you're probably right. Curse my overly-literal reading.
Sorry, yes, it was chiefly meant to be humor, the official Riot Act of 1714 defined a riot as 12 or more people gathered in a public space for an hour or more. But colonial Governors sometimes mandated the number lower after declaring martial law, or just because--try looking up some of the Caribbean protests in the 1800s, but I'm not sure how forthcoming the internet will be on this.
Trouble is you could classify absolutely any concrete object as the latter.
True, which is why that is a very grey area that my coworkers and I take very seriously. We tend to consider works of art that represent significant effort and creativity as being sorts of extensions of the person responsible for them (I'm sure the writers here agree that creative expression represents something more intense and personal than, say, a business letter or a bumper sticker), whereas while we might call erasing graffiti or street art "repression" in a more general sense I at least would not want to call it violence.
I don't think it's violence if it's not force targeted at a person (at a person, and not at their possessions.) Blowing up an empty car isn't violent; setting yourself on fire in protest is.
Blowing people's cars up is a good way to escalate from nonviolence to violence, though.
Actually this is an interesting point which is up for debate. I consider self-immolation or really any form of expressive suicide to be nonviolent, but my personal philosophy is that ones body is just a sack of a meat we as human beings happen to be attached to. You'll find, for example, that Tibetan Buddhist monks, known for this tactic, are divided on this issue; moreover, they're divided regardless of age, level of conservatism, level of political activity, etc. But that's a different issue.
And I'm going to use this response to sort of lump together the "controllability" worries; my position is that property destruction is nonviolent but is not frequently a good idea. Blowing up a police riot van with no one in it but maybe a bunch of guns or tear gas or something might be a good tactic but blowing up a bunch of civilian cars is almost certainly not a good tactic, since protest campaigns should aim for popular support if they'd like to survive and justify their populist underpinnings. Tactically speaking, in other words, property destruction is hard to control and so can lead to accidental harm, can escalate quickly when neither side understands its purpose, and can turn a population against your movement, so it's probably best to avoid.
Yeah I think it's a silly and arbitrary line. Mine is mostly a semantic argument (and I'm drawing from the World Health Organization's definition of violence, though I guess I may be misreading it.)
I don't think that there is a significant moral difference between stealing the engine from someone's car to stop them getting to work and threatening to break their knees if they try to go to work, but I think the latter is closer to violence than the former.
That's why I said earlier I think, you see people go with peaceful protest (boycotts, sit-ins, mass demonstrations) rather than "nonviolent protest." The idea that you're not going to see violence erupt when you start smashing people's stores and blowing up cars is a joke. If you want to start a fight in the name of your cause, start it ... but don't firebomb cars and destroy people's stores so that you can, I don't know, decry the violent response of the police as disproportionate or something. If your cause is worth fighting for, then I think the only right thing to do is to fight for it, to do it with conviction, not to use tactics that are reminiscent of children playing the I'm not touching you game.
Thanks for this response, and to others who have expressed a similar worry about damaging a person's livelihood, which is one major line of defense for the idea that property destruction is violent (the other is the Lockean principle that property is essentially an extension of its owner). So setting aside the fact that destroying people's property is not a good way to garner their support, I think that the instances where property destruction are more appropriate might shed light on my position. Early labor movements frequently destroyed the property of the companies they worked for in order to stop production (the goal of the strike), to illustrate offenses like pay-to-play trade shops that force laborers to pay most of their wages for the tools they need to work, or sometimes to steal food and other necessities from local social elites that maintained near monopolies on those supplies. These kinds of cases show that the very idea that property is essential to living is a consequence of the economic/social apparatus that some movements are campaigning against. While a Communist or Anarchist that destroys or steals property from other repressed members of society (as they see them) is a fool, one who destroys or steals the property of the ruling class is simply using extra-legal means to execute a redistribution she believes is just according to her theory of social organization.
So if that's violence, shouldn't it also be considered violence for the so-called ruling class to prevent
that redistribution? That thought is a line that more militant leftists take to advocate the idea of a perpetual class war which permanently justifies violent response. I tend to think that while class war may be a reality, it's a good idea to separate out which elements of that struggle are violent and avoid/oppose those regardless of which side they're on.
There's also the point that the stores that get looted and the cars that get flipped are rarely (if ever!) the stores and cars of the people whose actions are being protested. The cars and stores that are damaged belong to people who are either uninvolved, or worse - the very people who are being impacted by the people whose actions triggered the protest! Not to mention, once one store or car gets messed with, you get the scavengers who really don't give a damn about what you're protesting swarming in with the 'Free Stuff!' attitude.
A significant part of my work is researching cases of nonviolent protest throughout history and across the world and I can say with some authority at least that looting and that kind of chaos in general, especially against members of the same class, is not prevalent in organized campaigns. You're a lot more likely to see that when people take to the streets without any organization or leadership specifically advocating for nonviolence, which is why people like Gandhi and MLK and organizations like the IWW were/are so important.
Sorry for the super long response, just trying to get everyone in there! Thanks for responding!