By Christian Holub
June 04, 2020 at 03:48 PM EDT
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The protests that have engulfed American cities in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minnesota cops come almost three decades after the 1992 riots that engulfed Los Angeles in the wake of Rodney King's death at the hands of L.A. cops. Saturday Night Live star Leslie Jones has personal memories of the King riots, which inspired her to post a passionate Instagram earlier this week with advice for today's protestors.

"We tore s--t up, son! Real talk," Jones said in an Instagram video that she decided to fully record rather than go live. "I remember after that s--t, nothing happened. The officers got off, and the city was f---ed up. I remember driving through like, 'what did we do? We f---ed up our city.' It took a long time for L.A. to come back from that. I say that to say this: I love that you guys are protesting. But I'm telling you, to get the f--- what you really want, we gonna have to f---ing change the system. And to change the system, we have to f---ing vote! As hard as you guys are protesting, I pray to the good Lord that y'all go this hard when it's time to vote. Because that's what they don't want you to do. They want you to do this s--t."

Jones' original video took full advantage of social media freedoms regarding profanity. When she appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Wednesday night, she was able to restate her case with fewer swears.

"There's probably nothing you could say to the protestors now that would make them not want to protest," Jones told Meyers. "There's nothing you could have said to me. I was ready to burn it down. We really thought we were doing something... The saddest part is all those black businesses that got tore up, didn't get to come back. So I feel like, we're burning down our own house."

The good news for Jones is that protests have gotten more peaceful in the days since she posted her original video. Whether it was because of curfews imposed on cities across the U.S. or those participating listening to anti-looting cautionary words, more recent protests have been mostly peaceful compared to the earlier outbursts of violence.

The other piece of good news is that people are not forgetting to vote during the protests. Tuesday saw primary elections in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C. Those like Jones who assure protestors that voting, not street action, is the path to true change should take comfort in the success of outsider progressive and socialist candidates in these local elections, both unseating long-term incumbents and defending recent victories.

It's understandable that some protestors upset about police violence against black people may be depressed by the prospect of an upcoming presidential election between Donald Trump, who enraged liberals this week by tweeting that looters should be shot (orders that, thankfully, do not seem to have been carried out), and Joe Biden, who co-wrote many of the most draconian crime bills of the '90s alongside segregationist politicians and this week advised police to "shoot in the leg instead of the heart." But there are more local elections on the way this year. Anyone who, like Jones, currently lives in New York City has a bevy of insurgent progressive politicians to vote for in the June 23 primary.

To help combat systemic racism, please consider donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero, which is dedicated to ending police brutality in America through research-based strategies.
  • Color of Change, which works to move decision makers in corporations and government to be more responsive to racial disparities.
  • Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal services to people who have been wrongly convicted, denied a fair trial, or abused in state jails and prisons.

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