bookmark_borderHypocrisy and overreaction to Portland arrests

In response to aggressive and destructive protests in Portland, Oregon the federal government sent law enforcement officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection to restore order. “Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14,” explained Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.” These federal officers have come and gone, but their actions and the response to them still merit discussion.

Those on the left-hand side of the political spectrum have predictably erupted in outrage, describing these arrests as authoritarian and unconstitutional. “It sounds more like abduction,” said Juan Chavez, director of the civil rights project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center. “It sounds like they’re kidnapping people off the streets.” Oregon Governor Kate Brown called the deployment of federal officers “a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.” Senator Jeff Merkley tweeted, “authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters.” An opinion piece by Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post proclaims, “This is not America… There is a more important symbol of justice than a brick-and-mortar building. It is called the Constitution. To ignore it is to attack America.”

If Marcus cares so much about the Constitution, where was she when governors around the country implemented executive orders requiring businesses to close and people to stay in their homes? When has she stood up for people’s Second Amendment rights, or the First Amendment rights of those who have protested against lockdown orders?

It is hypocritical that so many people who have not only failed to object to but actively cheered on blatantly authoritarian and unconstitutional policies are up in arms about the arrests of protesters associated with Antfa and the Black Lives Matter movement. The Portland arrests are not an attack on America. The protesters’ actions are an attack on America, and criticism of the federal officers who were deployed to defend people and property is off-base.

First of all, as even the Washington Post opinion piece admits, the law enforcement officers are wearing patches that say “police.” As an article by Law Enforcement Today accurately points out, “The irony is that the ‘unmarked authorities’ that Senator Merkley is complaining about… clearly have the words ‘police’ on their chest plate. That usually means they’re marked.”

More importantly, the actions of the protesters more than justify a forceful response. What has been happening in Portland is nothing short of atrocious. For weeks and months on end, mobs have been barbarically destroying both private and public property and assaulting innocent people. Night after night they have repeatedly firebombed, graffiti’d, smashed the windows of, and thrown fireworks, pipes, and rocks at a variety of courthouses and federal buildings. The damages have totaled over $23 million. Rioters have thrown ball bearings, glass bottles, cans, rocks, feces, and animal seed at police officers, deliberately shined laser pointers in officers’ eyes, and attacked them with hammers. They threw fireworks at construction workers who were attempting to repair the damage to a courthouse. Additionally, they have destroyed priceless statues and monuments. The city was forced to remove the iconic elk statue after rioters climbed on top of it, graffiti’d the phrase “oink oink” on it, set it on fire, and damaged its foundation. Previously, rioters tore down a statue of George Washington after covering it in graffiti and setting it on fire, and used ropes and an ax to tear down a statue of Thomas Jefferson. Journalist Andy Ngo has been diligently chronicling the Portland chaos minute by minute on Twitter since the beginning, documenting new acts of destruction every day.

These actions – particularly the attacks on statues and innocent construction workers – are repugnant and despicable. Anyone who has participated in these acts of vandalism and aggression needs to be severely punished. It is true that in situations involving large groups of people protesting, not every protester is involved in or even aware of the immoral actions committed by fellow protesters. For example, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, two individuals arrested by “unmarked” officers, Conner O’Shea and Mark Pettibone, claim not to have been engaged in criminal activity. However, they did admit that they regularly attend protests. There is nothing wrong with attending protests, per se. It is protected by the First Amendment. But given the atrocious acts committed by protesters aligned with Antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement, both in Portland and around the world, anyone who chooses to participate in demonstrations supporting these causes is implicitly expressing support for the atrocious acts. In other words, even those individual protesters who have not personally destroyed statues or assaulted construction crews are standing in solidarity with those who have. Anyone who expresses support for these atrocities, whether implicitly or explicitly, is a bad person and deserves anything that he or she gets.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf had it right when he said: “Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city. Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.” As part of his statement, Wolf provided a disturbing litany of the acts of destruction carried out by protesters. In her Washington Post opinion piece, however, Ruth Marcus describes this list as “less than convincing” and disingenuously quotes the entries from one particular day as evidence for this claim. But reading the list in its entirety provides a completely different picture. How anyone could read this list of despicable actions and not find it a convincing justification for a federal crackdown is beyond me.

As Law Enforcement Today puts it, “So long as protests turn into riots, these ‘activists’ can count on getting arrested or detained.” By punishing those who have either carried out or expressed support for attacks on innocent people and property, law enforcement officers are standing up for the rights of the people of Portland. There is nothing authoritarian or unconstitutional about that.

bookmark_borderRebels at Talladega standing up for Confederate flag

At yesterday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, some brave, rebellious souls stood up to NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag.

A parade of vehicles proudly displaying Confederate flags of all shapes and sizes drove by the track. A plane towed a huge banner of a Confederate flag with the words “DEFUND NASCAR” overhead. And Confederate flags were flying off the shelves at retailers’ stands outside the track.

Pictures can be seen here and here.

If anyone is interested in donating to the organization behind the Confederate flag flyover, they are called the Southern Legal Resource Center, and their website is here: http://slrc-csa.org/

They also released the following statement on their Facebook page:

SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS
Press release: Defund NASCAR

NASCAR’s banning the display of the Confederate Battle Flag by its fans is nothing less than trampling upon Southerners’ First Amendment Right of free expression. This un-American act shall not go unchallenged. Today members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Confederate Air Force displayed its disapproval of NASCAR’s trampling upon the First Amendment Rights of Southerners. During and before the start of the NASCAR race in Talladega, Alabama race our plane flew a banner announcing a drive to “defund NASCAR.” It is the hope of the Sons of Confederate Veterans that NASCAR fans will be allowed the fundamental American right of displaying pride in their family and heritage. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is proud of the diversity of the Confederate military and our modern Southland. We believe NASCAR’s slandering of our Southern heritage only further divides our nation. The Sons of Confederate Veterans will continue to defend not only our Right but the Right of all Americans to celebrate their heritage. We trust NASCAR will do the same.

Paul C. Gramling, Jr.,
Commander-in-Chief Sons of Confederate Veterans

I salute these patriots for standing up for their flag and their heritage against the politically correct mob.

bookmark_borderBully attacks free speech in Watertown

This week, in one of the latest examples of Black Lives Matter supporters taking things too far, a woman named Mary Burns decided to bully and insult an innocent person who was cleaning up the sidewalk. 

On Tuesday, Burns was riding her bike through Watertown, MA and saw a man mopping away messages that had been written in chalk on the sidewalk. The messages expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The man mopped away some of the messages and erased the word “black” from the phrase “black lives matter” so that it simply read “lives matter.”

Burns decided to accost the man and pick a fight with him, and then tweeted about the interaction:

Continue reading “Bully attacks free speech in Watertown”

bookmark_borderProtests, riots, and double standards

Reports of the atrocities committed by protesters turned rioters in the wake of George Floyd’s death continue to pile up:

  • In Minneapolis, where the protests began, rioters destroyed a bar that a firefighter spent his life’s savings to build. They burned down an 189-unit affordable housing development and a high-tech manufacturing company. They torched a police station and vandalized, burned, or looted nearly every single building in the surrounding shopping district. They attacked a tanker truck and beat the driver. And they  attacked a woman in a wheelchair while looting a Target.
  • Rioters in Atlanta damaged the College Football Hall of Fame and smashed windows at CNN’s headquarters.
  • In Chicago, they smashed the windows of stores, including a Macy’s and a 7-11.
  • In Denver, someone deliberately crashed their car into a police car, severely injuring 4 people.
  • In Rochester, New York, rioters beat up a shop owner who was attempting to defend her store.
  • Rioters apparently shot a man in a car in Richmond, Virginia.
  • In Philadelphia and Los Angeles, people set police cars on fire.
  • In Columbus, Ohio, they destroyed and looted the Milestone 229 restaurant.
  • People vandalized Confederate monuments at the University of Mississippi and at North Carolina’s state capitol building. They vandalized statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Jeb Stuart in Richmond, Virginia, and burned down the headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. They spray-painted the word “traitor” on the Confederate Defenders statue in Charleston, South Carolina. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, they vandalized a statue of General Alexander P. Stewart.
  • In Nashville, people tore down a statue of lawmaker and newspaper publisher Edward Carmack, smashed the windows of the courthouse and set it on fire, and spray-painted obscenities on sidewalks.
  • In Philadelphia, they set a statue of Mayor Frank Rizzo on fire.
  • In Dallas, they beat up a store owner and stomped on his head after he attempted to defend his business.
  • In San Antonio, Texas, they destroyed a mall and attempted to damage the Alamo, but were stopped by brave, armed citizens.
  • In Washington, D.C., rioters vandalized historic sites around the National Mall, including the World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and statue of General Casimir Pulaski. They punched and kicked Secret Service agents and threw bricks, bottles, and rocks at them, injuring 60. They also vandalized 6 Secret Service vehicles. And they attacked Fox News reporter Leland Vittert and his cameraman.
  • In Boston, people are currently setting police cars on fire, throwing bottles at journalists, and smashing the windows of various businesses including a bank, a clothing store, a shoe store, a cell phone store, a restaurant, and a Walgreens.

I could continue to add to the list, but then this blog post would be as long as a novel, and I would stay up all night working on it. Suffice it to say that the number of examples of protesters harming innocent people and their property is nearly infinite.

The only thing more infuriating than these senseless acts of destruction is the discrepancy between how the media and the general public have treated them versus how they have treated protests against authoritarian measures to stop the coronavirus.

The majority of comments that I’ve heard and read about the George Floyd protests from people in the media and on the internet have expressed praise, sympathy, and understanding. Even when it is acknowledged that harming innocent people and their property is wrong, emphasis is placed on how understandable the protesters’ anger is, how legitimate their grievances are, and how frustrated, hurt, and traumatized they are feeling. Those who criticize the acts of destruction are treated as the real problem. Additionally, not once I have I witnessed any media members comment on the lack of social distancing during these protests.

On the other hand, those who participate in protests against lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are routinely called “idiots” and “morons.” They have been suspended from their jobs and threatened with violence. Their cause – the right to privacy and freedom of movement – is mocked as petty and unimportant. People online have argued that these protesters have forfeited their right to medical services and that they should not be allowed to ride on public transportation. All of this despite the fact that, as far as I have heard and read, not a single anti-lockdown protester has harmed any people or property. And also despite the fact that the anti-lockdown protesters have the more legitimate and important cause. (This is not because George Floyd’s death wasn’t tragic and unjust – it absolutely was – but because the person who killed him has been fired, arrested, and charged, and nearly everyone agrees that his death was tragic and unjust. Stay-at-home orders, on the other hand, constitute a large-scale trampling on the rights of every single person, yet have gone not only unchallenged but actively supported by the majority of the media and the public, making it particularly important and courageous to protest against them.)

The protesters in Michigan who went to the state capitol while exercising their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms have been criticized more harshly for being “intimidating” than Black Lives Matter supporters have been for destroying buildings, vandalizing monuments, ransacking businesses, and beating and severely injuring people.

The attitude of society generally seems to be: Protesting peacefully against authoritarian government policies is selfish and irresponsible. Smashing, burning, and destroying everything in sight, however, is perfectly fine.

Did I miss a scientific discovery that being a supporter of Antifa or the Black Lives Matter movement confers immunity from the coronavirus?

bookmark_borderAnti-lockdown lawsuits all around the country

Politico has a good article outlining the lawsuits that have been filed all around the country against various states’ COVID-19 lockdown orders. Here are some examples:

  • In California there have been numerous lawsuits filed against Governor Gavin Newsom for his closures of gun stores, churches, gyms, yoga studios, hair salons, and beaches, ban on protests, and the stay-at-home order in its entirety. In one example, LA County resident Samuel Armstrong sued the state, arguing (correctly, in my opinion) that the order amounts to detention without due process of law, thereby violating the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. San Francisco attorney Harmeet Dhillon, who represents the plaintiffs in several of these lawsuits, said, “We do not shut down our highways because people die in car accidents. We do not ban commerce because people die of lung disease after buying cigarettes.”
  • In Kentucky, four protesters sued Governor Andy Beshear, arguing that the state’s restrictions on protests violate the First Amendment. Another lawsuit focusing on the ban of church services was upheld by a federal court.
  • In Maine, a group of business owners sued Governor Janet Mills over her stay-at-home order.
  • In Maryland, a group of business owners, religious leaders, and state delegates sued Governor Larry Hogan, asking for a restraining order preventing enforcement of the state’s lockdown.
  • In Ohio, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law sued Governor Mike DeWine over his closure of non-essential businesses. More recently, this organization filed another lawsuit on behalf of 35 independent gym owners, who are still not permitted to open, despite the fact that the government has begun to lift restrictions.
  • In Pennsylvania, a group of business owners sued Governor Tom Wolf over the closure of non-essential businesses in a lawsuit that made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
  • In Texas, activist and lawyer Jared Woodfill has sued Governor Greg Abbott, arguing that the state’s lockdown order violates the Texas and U.S. Constitutions. Additionally, State Attorney General Ken Paxton has threatened to sue the governments of Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio if they do not lift their strict stay-at-home measures.
  • And of course, in Wisconsin, a great victory took place this past Wednesday when the state Supreme Court struck down as “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable” the stay-at-home order enacted by Governor Tony Evers and Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. “Where in the Constitution did the people of Wisconsin confer the authority on a single unelected cabinet secretary to compel almost 6 million people to stay at home and close their businesses and face imprisonment if they don’t comply? With no input from the legislature, without the consent of the people? Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work among other ordinarily lawful activities?” asked Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley.

Salute to all of the plaintiffs, lawyers, and judges taking the side of freedom and individual rights.

bookmark_borderDOJ stands up for religious freedom

On Chincoteague Island, Virginia, the Lighthouse Fellowship Church is suing Governor Ralph Northam after he threatened the pastor with jail time or a $2,500 fine. The pastor’s offense? Holding a Palm Sunday service which was attended by 16 people, spaced apart in a church with a capacity of 293 people.

According to Fox News, the Department of Justice is coming to the church and pastor’s defense.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia has offered no good reason for refusing to trust congregants who promise to use care in worship in the same way it trusts accountants, lawyers, and other workers to do the same,” said a DOJ statement.

“As important as it is that we stay safe during these challenging times, it is also important for states to remember that we do not abandon all of our freedoms in times of emergency,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. “Unlawful discrimination against people who exercise their right to religion violates the First Amendment, whether we are in a pandemic or not.”

Right on. The existence of a pandemic does not make people’s fundamental rights and freedoms disappear.

Attorney General Bill Barr had indicated earlier that he and his department would consider supporting individuals and organizations suing state governments over coronavirus-related restrictions. I am glad that he is following through and taking a stand against authoritarian state governments.

bookmark_borderRebels in Massachusetts

In my home state of Massachusetts, where the American Revolution began, there have been some acts of rebellion against stay-at-home orders and lockdowns.

A “Liberate Massachusetts” rally took place outside the Swampscott, MA home of Governor Charlie Baker. And although most of the news coverage emphasizes the fact that the protest was not very well-attended, this article from the Salem News includes some meaningful quotes from the protesters.

“If people are afraid that they are going to get this, then they should stay home,” said Dianna Ploss, one of the organizers of the protest. “But there are plenty of people who aren’t afraid and they should be allowed to come out.”

I agree with this sentiment 100%. In all areas of life, including when it comes to the coronavirus, people should be allowed to make their own decisions about how much risk they are willing to take. Those who prefer to err on the safe side should be free to take as many steps as they wish to reduce their risk of catching the disease, including staying home and reducing or eliminating contact with other people. But those who are willing to accept a higher amount of risk should be free to do so as well.

“I’m specifically here for my rights. My right to get up in the morning … and go out for a walk in this beautiful state and this beautiful country anywhere I please and any time I please. And, if you don’t know your rights, you can’t fight for them,” said another protester, John Lanni. “What I see here is a slow erosion of our rights.”

Ploss also pointed out the irony of the fact that liquor stores are allowed to remain open while churches are not.

Speaking of churches, the Adams Square Baptist Church in Worcester, MA held mass on Sunday, in defiance of the state’s ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.

“Some people aren’t happy we’re meeting today,” said Pastor Kris Casey. “To them, I say I’m sorry. I’m sorry you feel that way … but I would rather upset your feelings than disappoint my God. I’m thankful that you’ve got people who are taking a stand because they want to be a good Christian.”

The mass was attended by 53 people, and Casey has said he plans to continue holding them.

He sent a letter to Governor Baker and posted it on Facebook, in which he argues that the state’s forced shutdown of churches violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.

Kudos to him for standing up for his rights and those of his congregation.

bookmark_borderProtesting is labeled a “non-essential activity” in North Carolina

On Tuesday, over 100 people gathered in Raleigh, NC to protest against the state government’s stay-at-home orders. The group organizing the protest, ReOpenNC, characterizes (correctly, in my opinion) the restrictions on people and businesses imposed by Governor Roy Cooper as unconstitutional.

“You are in violation of the executive order,” a cop told the crowd. “You are posing a risk to public health. If you do not disperse, you will be taken and processed at Wake County jail.” Although most protesters eventually dispersed, one protestor, Monica Faith Ussery, was arrested and charged with violating the stay-at-home executive order. “I have a right to peacefully assemble,” she said.

After the protest, the Raleigh Police Department tweeted in response to a question, “Protesting is a non-essential activity.” In a separate statement, they wrote “More important is the health and wellness of all who live in our community… We simply want everyone to be safe during this very serious public health crisis.”

I don’t know about you, but I find it disturbing that the government can ban a fundamental First Amendment right simply because it is not essential. Ms. Ussery has a point: the First Amendment explicitly prohibits the government from making any law abridging “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” In other words, protesting against government policies is precisely what the First Amendment was designed to protect. Health and wellness are important, but the government’s primary job should be to protect people’s freedoms. When a fundamental right can be taken away merely because it poses a risk to public health, then we are not living in a free country.

bookmark_borderAdditional thoughts on Straight Pride Parade, protests, and District Attorney

The Straight Pride Parade that took place two weeks ago inspired a wide variety of reactions from politicians, judges, law enforcement officials, and others. Here is a summary of these developments and my opinions on them:

Battle between Suffolk D.A. and judge

36 people who protested against the parade were arrested for crimes such as disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on police officers. For 20 arrestees charged only with the first two crimes, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office attempted to drop the charges, but Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard Sinnott ordered them to be arraigned anyways. This did not please Suffolk D.A. Rachael Rollins, who successfully petitioned the Supreme Judicial Court to overturn the judge’s decision. “By compelling arraignment in every case, the judge punished the exercise of individuals’ First Amendment right to protest,” Rollins said in a statement. “At my request, prosecutors used the discretion constitutionally allocated to the executive branch to triage cases and use our resources most effectively to protect public safety… For those people now tangled in the criminal justice system for exercising their right to free speech—many of whom had no prior criminal record—I will use the legal process to remedy the judge’s overstepping of his role.”

But from what I observed at the parade, the protesters were not merely exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech. They were attempting to prevent the parade marchers, whom they vastly outnumbered, from exercising theirs. Screaming at, swearing at, taunting, and insulting people for expressing a minority viewpoint is not free speech; it is bullying. Some protesters against the parade went so far as to openly advocate violence. According to the Boston Herald, an Antifa member named Jon Crowley said that violence was the only appropriate response to the parade. “We’re covered in black so when we attack these guys we can’t be prosecuted,” Crowley said. “They are fascists, 100%. How else are you going to get them to shut up?”

News flash: you do not have a right to get people to “shut up” when you disagree with their views. That’s the whole point of the First Amendment. People who attempt to silence and bully those with unpopular views should, when their actions rise to the level of breaking the law, be prosecuted as zealously and punished as severely as the law allows. Situations like what happened at the parade are the least appropriate situation for prosecutors to consider dropping charges. Also, contrary to what D.A. Rollins implied in her statement, public safety should not be the most important priority of the D.A.’s office; justice should be. And the most important part of justice is standing up for the rights of individuals (such as the parade marchers) against those who would trample on them (such as the jeering mobs of protesters).

John Ciccone, editor of South Boston Today, expressed his thoughts in an emailed statement with which I wholeheartedly agree: “It is the opinion of this newspaper and the overwhelming majority of readers heard from on this matter that the position and action Suffolk County DA Rollins has taken is absolutely wrong. In regard to the members of the so called ANTIFA organization, DA Rollins’ actions encourages the thug like violence of that group, who routinely have denied the rights of free speech and legal and peaceful protest of those they disagree with, not only in Boston during last weekend’s incidents, but in cities all across the nation. Those members of ANTIFA should be made an example of and be prosecuted to the full extend of what the law allows and if found guilty, given the maximum penalty. The message sent out should be loud and clear that they will not be allowed to come into Suffolk County and attack civilians and members of law enforcement without paying a heavy price for those actions.”

Continue reading “Additional thoughts on Straight Pride Parade, protests, and District Attorney”