By Devin Fehely

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — As the Bay Area braces for what could be another night of vandalism and violence, religious leaders and community activists say they see a silver lining in the protests and unrest that’s convulsed the region.

“The fact that people are so passionate about this issue is important. Martin Luther King said, ‘Riots are the language of the unheard,” says Pastor Scott Wagers who works with homeless and social justice issues.

Pastor Wagers says activism — however messy or chaotic it might appear — is the antithesis of indifference. It’s rooted in outrage over injustice and watered, he says, by a desire to see meaningful change.

“When people are left out of the equation, when there’s racial, economic and social injustice, people are going to rise up,” Pastor Wagers said.

Protesters say they worry the good they’re doing bringing attention to police misconduct and racial inequality is being overshadowed by the vandalism and looting that’s been happening during the overnight hours across the Bay Area.

“Some people see what’s happening on the news and only see violence. But when you’re down there, it’s a bunch of individuals who are like-minded and are coming together and finding strength and power in each other,” says San Jose State University student Lupe Franco who attended Friday’s protests downtown.

Civil rights leaders say the protests are expressions of anger and outrage — raw, visceral and often unfocused. To become a sustained social justice movement, they say protesters will eventually need to detail the kinds of concrete changes they want to see enacted.

“There is a transition point where the question becomes, ‘How does that energy get transformed into a movement that makes substantive change moving forward?” says Raj Jayadev, CEO of Silicon Valley De Bug.

Pastor Wagers echoed the sentiment.

“You cannot effect change by rioting in the streets. That’s an expression of anger. But that’s not going to create change,” says Pastor Wagers.

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