SAN JOSE (KPIX) – Protests raging across the county over the death of George Floyd have sparked a debate over violent and non-violent activism that has been burning since the 60s and 70s civil rights era.

On Monday, the president of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the NAACP condemned the violence and vandalism that followed protests against police misconduct across the Bay Area.

“I’m not happy about the looting because it takes away from the message. It takes away from the fact that a man was killed because they thought he gave a fake $20 bill — that a man’s life was lost,” says Rev. Jethroe Moore. “And your response is to tear something down.”

Moore says he joined the protests in downtown San Jose Friday evening, hoping to calm tensions. He says he emphasized to protesters the importance of non-violence.

“I said, ‘Let’s kneel.’ I said, ‘Let’s pray and let’s kneel. Let’s let them know that we’re not throwing anything at them. We’re not trying to hurt them,” Moore said.

He says he convinced dozens of young protesters to kneel in front of the rows of armed officers outfitted in riot gear.

But Moore acknowledges that not every protester seemed interested in embracing the non-violent tactics of an older generation of civil rights activists. He says some protesters adopted a decidedly confrontational, in-your-face style of interaction with law enforcement, apparently designed to provoke a confrontation.

Dave Diggs is a business owner and activist in San Jose. Diggs’ barbershop in downtown San Jose was a block away from Friday’s protests.

“Am I in agreement with the actions of the more aggressive protesters? Of course, not,” says Diggs.

Still, he says he understands that the anger, outrage, pain and frustration many of the protesters feel may not always find perfect expression and may occasionally spill over into violence and vandalism.

“I understand the pain and the frustration that’s coming from those protesters because it’s deeply rooted,” Diggs said.

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