Fiery But Mostly Peaceful: The 2020 Riots and the Gaslighting of America, by Julio Rosas, (DW Books: May 2022), 208 pages.
In Washington, a town where everyone flaunts their credentials, Trump’s election “blew the door wide open” for people like Julio Rosas to get a job.
I met Julio when I was 19 and have been friends with him for about as long as I’ve been serious about politics. He was about 21 at the time and just entering the arena of political journalism.
When I paid him a visit in Arlington, Virginia, we reflected on what spurred us to get into conservative media. “If there was any time to get into the media without a college degree, this would be the time to do it,” Rosas said he thought to himself back in late 2016. “If the media coverage of the 2016 campaigns and elections was this crazy, then the media’s reaction to the administration would be just as, if not more, insane.”
Rosas would be proven right. The Trump years were a media whirlwind: three Supreme Court nominations, a trade war with China, a constantly shuffling White House staff, two impeachments. But the most insane moments from the Trump years came in the summer of 2020.
The police-related killing of George Floyd sparked mass demonstrations that quickly devolved into violent and bloody riots, which were reinvigorated by other police-involved shootings, such as the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The destruction this rampant anarchy and disorder caused totaled well over $1 billion, making it the most expensive insurance event in American history.
Rosas, who by then had established himself as a capable journalist at the Washington Examiner and later at Townhall, where he’s currently a senior writer, found himself on the ground in Minneapolis and Kenosha, Portland and Seattle, to document the demonstrations and destruction in real time. A little less than two years later, he has come out with a book, Fiery But Mostly Peaceful, giving an in-depth first-hand account of what Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan once called the “summer of love.”
In many ways, Julio Rosas embodies the America First coalition that elected President Donald Trump in 2016. He was raised predominantly by his mother, an immigrant from Mexico, in the suburbs of Chicago. They spent most of his childhood at or below the poverty line, until his mother married his step-father, who worked as a software engineer at Motorola and pulled them into the middle class. “It sounds cliche, but I didn’t know we were poor when I was growing up. I just thought that’s how life was,” Rosas said, adding with a chuckle, “though I thought it was weird we didn’t have a T.V.”
He’s a college dropout. “I was never a good student at school, especially math,” Rosas said, but both his mother, who did not have a college degree, and his step-father “really instilled in me the idea that I should go to college.” Rosas didn’t feel strongly about college either way but figured he’d do what makes his parents happy. “I was taking Business Administration at Indiana Wesleyan University, and enjoyed the school for what it was,” Rosas said, but dropped out after he became interested in journalism. He’s also a member of the United States Marine Corps Reserve, to continue his step-father’s family legacy of military service.
All that is to say that Julio does not try to be someone that he’s not, and neither does his book. The book’s colloquial tone makes you feel as if you're navigating the unwritten rules of Seattle's CHOP undercover, or trying and failing to avoid projectiles from cops on the streets of Kenosha right there with him. Its accessible language makes the obvious even more so: Rioting and looting is bad; the police, despite their human errors, are good and necessary; the racial-justice movement is a sham.
The book also reminds readers of the left’s concerted effort to maintain the disorder. It was not limited to Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris tweeting out a link to donate to a bail fund for individuals arrested in the riots. It’s easy to forget just how far the left went to try and justify, if not encourage, the riots. Mayors of some of the nation’s biggest, richest cities literally knelt in front of racial-justice mobs and caved to demands to defund the police. Health experts charged with helping communities manage the Covid-19 pandemic debased themselves by suggesting that mass demonstrations against racism were “vital to public health.”
And, of course, media outlets told Americans not to believe their lying eyes. CNN infamously ran a chyron telling viewers protests in Kenosha were “fiery but mostly peaceful” as correspondent Omar Jimenez stood in front of vehicles engulfed in flames.
Make no mistake, the riots of 2020 were a real attempt at anarchotyranny, where widespread disorder in the name of left-wing prerogatives forces everyday people to become complicit in that disorder or risk their own ruin. In one of the most fascinating parts of the book, Julio explains why he had to take water from a store in Minneapolis. For miles around ground zero in the George Floyd riots, businesses were either locked down because of Covid-19 or the riots, or were actively being looted. If a poor family in southern Minneapolis didn’t get their grocery shopping done before the riots broke out on May 25 and 26, they were left with little to no options for the next week.
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The violence that upended thousands of people’s lives, destroyed hundreds of businesses, and caused the deaths of dozens of people was regime-sanctioned disorder, with the ultimate goal of tearing down the American system to create the pretext to build anew.
“I don’t know where this country is going.” Rosas said, with a furrowed brow. “I think we’re entering a period where this kind of unrest is going to continue to happen, with shorter amounts of time in between, and we’re not going to be able to adequately handle that because the cultural rot, and our response to it, has made us less ready to handle these riots when they arise.”
I share his pessimism, but found a silver lining: Next time the country devolves into chaos, maybe Julio Rosas will write another book about it.