Emmaus International

Following many other countries such as India, Brazil, Chile and Lebanon, the United States is now witnessing an upsurge in popular protests. As is always the case, the state authorities justify the violent reaction of the police by claiming that demonstrators are violent. They cite the damage and thefts committed by the few to justify repressive measures used against the vast majority of non-violent protesters.

Although any damage and abuses committed are reprehensible, Emmaus International wishes to emphasise a certain number of truths that should be taken into consideration by those who govern us:

  • The primary sources of popular uprisings are inequality and discrimination. Our founder, Abbé Pierre, explained on numerous occasions that the order of responsibilities should not be reversed: “Always before active violence there is the passive violence of those who have, and who are the first offenders when they do not take action for the human development of others” (Conference at the Palais de Sports in Toulouse, 11 May 1976);

  • The responsibility for the existence of inequalities and discrimination lies primarily with the states and the most privileged. Inequalities have increased dramatically over recent decades, as economic growth has been captured by only a very small section of the population*. This situation is not inevitable, it is the result of political choices, and therefore no repression of the people can be legitimate while the very same people do not have full access to the means they need to live in dignity and find fulfilment;

  • We can only re-establish law and order through social justice, and certainly not by resorting to police or military violence;

  • Every year poverty, inequality and discrimination kill many more people than epidemics: the financial resources that are being deployed today to tackle the consequences of Covid-19 demonstrate that political powers can act when they think it’s necessary.

Emmaus International calls on the leaders of all countries to put an end to extreme inequality, which is the first act of violence, and to refrain from responding violently to the legitimate demands of the poorest and most discriminated against people in society.

* (“Because of high and rising inequality within countries, the top 1% richest individuals in the world has captured twice as much growth as the bottom 50% of individuals since 1980", World Inequality Report 2018 (summary), Word Inequality Lab).


Photo credit: Guillermo Rubio