Anti-police protesters have found their enemy, and it is commuters and shoppers.
The protest movement that has sprung up in the wake of grand-jury decisions not to indict police officers in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases is the anti-police version of Occupy Wall Street. It represents the same free-floating critique of “the system,” with the same strong whiff of lawlessness.
Even when protesters aren’t burning out buildings (as they did repeatedly in Ferguson), even when they haven’t broken windows (as they have in Oakland and Berkeley), they have closed down intersections and bridges. In other words, even when they have been “peaceful,” the protests have involved coercion and illegal acts.
Given the events of the past two weeks, you could be forgiven for thinking that the reason President Barack Obama says there is an infrastructure crisis in this country is that there aren’t enough bridges and tunnels for anti-police protesters to block.
The logic of these actions is, to say the least, not obvious. Eric Garner didn’t die in the custody of commuters trying to exit New York through one of its bridges or tunnels. He wasn’t taken down during his arrest by cabdrivers trying to make a living in an already-gridlocked city. All of these ordinary people, who haven’t harmed anyone, are being inconvenienced for the sin of having somewhere to go.
The left has long posited various means of achieving social justice, from the general strike to consciousness-raising worker collectives. To these methods must now be added traffic congestion, as well as the staging of obnoxious spectacles during the Christmas shopping season. If the road to police reform goes through the Disney Store in Times Square and other retail outlets around the country, the demonstrations have truly hit home.
A professor at the City University of New York named Eric Linsker, who writes “f*** the police” in what he calls his poetry (Robert Frost he is not), took a more direct approach at the inaptly named Millions March NYC over the weekend. He allegedly seemed ready to throw a trash can on police from an elevated walkway on the Brooklyn Bridge. The old Pete Seeger progressive anthem was “If I Had a Hammer.” For Linsker, it isn’t an issue; he was reportedly found with a bag full of them.
In the Brooklyn Bridge melee, two police officers who were there to ensure that the protesters’ civil rights weren’t violated were allegedly attacked, although accounts differ about what happened. (Maybe future ambiguity can be resolved by having violent agitators wear body cameras.) The spirit of at least some of these protesters was captured in a chant caught on video: “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!”
And this is a movement that has gotten broadly sympathetic press coverage. Imagine if tea-party rallies occasionally dissolved into acts of arson and property damage. Or if they involved disorderly acts in public spaces. Or if they featured chants braying for violence against their enemies. Back in the day, Sarah Palin merely put a target symbol on a map of congressmen she hoped to defeat, and it was taken as almost an incitement to murder.
But these are all counterfactuals, because public disorder, lawlessness and intimidation are almost exclusively the tools of the left. This is because the left doesn’t put a high value on order and lawfulness, at least not when they are perceived to be obstacles to its goals; because it has a violent anarchist fringe that exists to rampage and break things whenever it gets the opportunity; because it has a romance for direct action; and because it tends to believe that the entire American system is rotten, and therefore any means justify the ends in attempting to upend it.
It will take out its rage on any convenient target and expect — correctly — to get a free pass from the establishment media and liberal elite.
Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: email@example.com.