Media Advisory 2.15.17

For Immediate Release                                                                                 


Seattle’s most high profile activist denounces violence and property damage as protest tactics

As the executive director of Seattle HEMPFEST®, the world’s largest annual cannabis reform event, for over 2 decades, Vivian McPeak is one of Seattle’s most successful and longstanding citizen activists. McPeak is highly critical of some confrontational, adversarial protest tactics like those recently employed in Berkeley by those who call themselves the “Black Bloc” anarchists.

“The protest tactics of violence and property destruction play right into the hands of authority and are often self-defeating and counter-productive. Such an approach may feel cathartic and empowering to those using such tactics at the time, but in the end they only serve to further alienate the general public and result in a more heavy handed police response,” says McPeak. “That is what instigators like Steve Bannon and MiloYiannopolous want,” he continues.

“Protest tactics like those often employed by the Black Bloc “anarchist” contingent put other protesters in harm’s way and interfere with peaceful non-violent protests. By co-opting other peaceful protests these elements can discredit them by handing red meat to the media which might not be able to distinguish between the two, therefore portraying everyone at the scene as disruptive and adversarial,” says McPeak.

McPeak believes that wearing masks makes it easy for provocateurs to infiltrate protesters and initiate violence and property destruction, although he doesn’t think that occurs as often as some assume because there is no shortage of people angry and passionate enough to protest irresponsibly.

“Who gets to determine who's windows get smashed, or what gets set on fire -- a mob?” asks McPeak. “What if everybody took to the streets and started breaking things and throwing rocks at police when they disagreed with a policy or news story? How would those of us on the Left feel if the Right Wing started adopting those tactics and started breaking the windows of our businesses, or setting our cars on fire?” he continues.

“Only through peaceful, Satyagraha (Ghandi and MLK) style non-violent resistance can protest movements gain national traction and advance a cause sufficiently to change public policy and influence beltway politics. When the citizens employ these time-tested constitutionally protected methods of non-violent resistance the authorities cannot simply clamp down with the hammer of Thor without sharp media and public scrutiny. But throw one rock at a cop or set one car on fire and all bets are off and the public loses sympathy. Such actions by a small handful of protesters can mar an entire protest action and serve to discredit the actions of many and sabotage their messaging,” says McPeak.

The Seattle HEMPFEST is America’s largest annual free speech event, attended by as many as 100,000 people, and has a spotless 25 year track record in terms of violence, injuries, and arrests. Seattle HEMPFEST is the national model for community values protest events. McPeak has attended and/or been involved in the production of over 100 political actions in his 35 year protest career. McPeak is the author or Protestival: A Twenty Year Retrospective of Seattle HEMPFEST. McPeak has a weekly podcast on called Hempresent, with over 85,000 downloads on 5 continents, and is a guest blogger for