Looters Attack More Than a Courthouse
Many in Montecito are conflicted. The senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has jarred 100 percent of us into re-examining the fight for equal rights and justice under the law. Unfortunately, while our country attempts to come together in its search for racial justice, a highly visible minority of violent rioters and anarchists has hijacked Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy of peaceful protest to wreak havoc and destruction on innocent victims in the name of social justice.
The media insists that America is becoming more “systemically racist,” ignoring the enormous progress made since the 1960s. Calls for defunding or abolishing police, redirecting funds to social programs and requiring all officers to undergo training to combat racism and white supremacy, have become the new norms for police reform.
Terrified of being branded as racists, many of us mumble that we are all for racial justice and peaceful protest, but not for violence and anarchy. Unfortunately, we are seeing more violence, more anarchy, and less willingness to rationally examine the destruction and chaos that accompanies social justice reform.
The Spread of Violence in America
When a community turns on and pillories its own police force, officers become more risk-averse, and crime rates soar. According to CNN, New York City has seen its homicide rate for the first half of the year jump 23 percent over 2019, led by a huge spike in recent violence. In Chicago, murder capital of the US, homicides jumped 39 percent during the last week of June and the first week of July compared to the same period last year. Los Angeles has seen double-digit rises in homicides for the past two months.
The leading cause of death for young Black males is homicide. The threat to Black lives from street crime in ghetto neighborhoods is massively greater than any threat posed by police misconduct. Every year, approximately 7,500 Black Americans are victims of homicide, and the vast majority of Black victims, around 90 percent, is killed by other blacks, mainly by gunfire.
Unsafe in Seattle
On June 8, Seattle allowed rioters to establish a police-free CHOP zone dubbed by the Mayor as the new “Summer of Love.” When it spun out of control, Seattle police retook its Capitol Hill Precinct on July 1. On July 25, “peaceful protestors” in Seattle gathered outside the juvenile court and detention facility, set fire to portable trailers and smashed the windows of nearby cars and businesses. An explosive device gashed an eight-inch hole in the police 3rd precinct building. Fifty-nine officers were injured throughout the day.
Seattle Councilwoman Lisa Herbold suggested firing all the white officers in the Seattle Police Department. Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best ripped into the Mayor and City Council for creating an environment that makes police officers vulnerable to harm when stripped of basic crowd control techniques, such as tear gas.
Peaceful Protests in Portland
Each day peaceful protestors marched in Portland. Each night, for two months, a mob of organized rioters laid siege to Portland’s Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse and the Multnomah County Justice Center in a hellbent attempt to burn them down. Federal law enforcement officers were systematically attacked by angry mobs pelting officers with rocks, bricks, frozen water bottles, canned goods, slingshots with ball bearings, incendiary devices, mortar fireworks, and balloons and bags filled with urine, bleach, and fecal matter.
Surrounding the courthouse was a relatively small number of federal law enforcement personnel (about 100) charged with protecting the courthouse from being overrun and destroyed by protestors armed with hammers and baseball bats. When the perimeter fence was breached, law enforcement pushed back demonstrators several blocks. What unfolded nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a peaceful protest. It is by any objective measure an assault on the government of the United States. Conspicuously missing in action was adequate protection of the federal buildings by city and state law enforcement.
The riots in Portland started on May 28, three days after the death of George Floyd and continued through August 1. It was not until the July 4 weekend that deputies from the US Marshal Services and Homeland Security were called in. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the use of federal marshals as calling in “Stormtroopers.” The media says “camouflaged stormtroopers in unmarked cars were whisking kidnapped innocent victims off the streets without a warrant.” The use of the word “kidnapping” alleges that federal agents had committed a crime. However, no court or judge had said that was the case. In at least one case, federal officials have said they put someone in an unmarked van for questioning because they believed that person had committed a crime.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown accused the president of “a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.” Was the federal action legal? Yes. The US Marshal’s Service is specifically instructed to provide security and law enforcement services to all federally owned and leased buildings. Some 100 federal officers, mostly from Portland, were assigned to the courthouse defense.
The War on Law Enforcement Has Dangerous Unintended Consequences
Vicious attacks on law enforcement by the press branding police as racists, and elected officials, scrambling to avoid taking personal responsibility, have left law enforcement increasing reluctant to intervene in legitimate calls for assistance in cases of assault, domestic violence, drunkenness, robberies, rapes, physical beatings, arson and looting. Is that an outcome that citizens support? Are we fearful that if we speak up, we will each be labeled as a racist?
In a display of professionalism, most law enforcement officers are reporting for duty despite increased risk to personal safety. Small business owners in riot-torn neighborhoods, faced with stolen and looted merchandise, burned out stores which may never re-open and personal physical violence, praise police for their courage and pray for their elected officials to show some backbone.
Closer to home, Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo took a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance to show her support for “Black Lives Matter.” That is not a “Profile in Courage” moment for our Mayor, or her City Council, in the eyes of many war veterans who honor our flag, police officers who are uniformly accused of racism and those who want an end to violence as a prerequisite to good faith negotiations.
Defund the Police
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio slashed $1 billion from the largest police force in the country with an operating budget of about $6 billion. The cut effectively canceled a 1,200-person police recruiting class, curtailed overtime spending and shifted school safety deployments and homeless outreach away from the NYPD. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to cut as much as $150 million that was part of a planned increase in the police department’s budget.
Demonizing and defunding law enforcement agencies is dangerous. When the media paints all police officers as racists, law enforcement officers across the country retire at record rates, convinced that elected officials do not have their backs.
Law Enforcement Presence at the Democrat National Convention
Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, with less than three weeks to go before the Democratic National Convention, some 100 law enforcement agencies have reputedly pulled out of an agreement with Milwaukee police to provide adequate security after being told that tear gas and pepper spray cannot be used, if necessary, to control large crowds.
Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales asks, why would police departments want to knowingly send their officers into harm’s way without every tool at their disposal? Why would police departments want to guard and protect the very individuals that are trying to abolish their profession? If Democrats believe the police should be defunded or abolished, they should have no problem holding their convention without law enforcement being present.
What Should Be Done?
Everyone supports the First Amendment right to peacefully protest, but to ignore destruction and anarchy is to abandon the basic rule-of-law stability that is needed to unite us during this politically divisive time. At the very least, we should be able to agree as a nation that there is no place in this country for armed mobs that seek to establish autonomous zones beyond government control, or tear down statues and monuments that law-abiding communities chose to erect, or destroy the property and livelihoods of innocent business owners. The most basic responsibility of government is to guarantee the rule of law, so that its citizens can live their lives safely and without fear.