bookmark_borderJake Gardner’s life mattered

On May 30 in Omaha, Nebraska, protests took place in response to the death of George Floyd. As often is the case during such protests, property was vandalized, buildings were damaged, and businesses were looted. A confrontation took place between bar owner Jake Gardner and protester James Scurlock, which ended with Gardner shooting and killing Scurlock. District Attorney Don Kleine declined to bring charges against Gardner, explaining that the shooting was self-defense. Naturally, because Gardner was white and Scurlock was black, supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement erupted in outrage, assuming that Scurlock must have been an innocent victim and Gardner a murderer. So, a grand jury was convened and special prosecutor Frederick Franklin was appointed to lead the grand jury investigation. On September 15, the grand jury indicted Gardner on charges of manslaughter, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, attempted first-degree assault, and terroristic threats.

On September 19, Gardner died by suicide. A veteran of multiple tours of duty with the Marines, he had recently told local news channel KETV that he was “more anxious now than when I was flying to Iraq.” According to his defense attorney, Stu Dornan, he had received death threats and as a result had hired a bodyguard and had moved to California. Gardner felt that the BLM riots resembled a war zone. According to Dornan, someone shattered the window of the bar with a pole, which Gardner thought was a bullet. As people began climbing through the broken window, Gardner pulled the fire alarm, called police, and went outside. There, in video footage described by District Attorney Kleine, Gardner’s father and several protesters pushed and shoved each other. Someone shouted that Gardner had a gun, causing a group of people to tackle him. He fired two warning shots, but then Scurlock jumped on him, and he fired the fatal shot. 

“The grand jury indictment was a shock to him,” said Dornan. “He was really shook up.” Another attorney for Gardner, Tom Monaghan, said that his client had already been convicted in the court of public opinion, particularly on social media. “We have to stop the lies,” he said. 

Franklin, the special prosecutor, attempted to justify the charges. Gardner was “philosophically opposed” to the protests, Franklin said (as if that is a bad thing). He and other individuals were inside the bar with the lights off during the protests, which Franklin characterized as “set[ting] up an ambush inside his business, waiting on a looter to come in so he could ‘light him up.'” Franklin acknowledged that “vandals and people engaged in destroying did just that” but claimed that “there was not a single attempt to go inside the property.” Video taken by a protester showed the initial confrontation between Gardner and Scurlock and demonstrated that Gardner was the aggressor, Franklin said, without providing details. As far as I am concerned, whenever a confrontation happens between someone who is part of a mob engaged in looting, vandalism, and destruction and someone who is not, the person who is part of the mob is necessarily the aggressor. Even if no one had vandalized Gardner’s business or tackled him, he would still be in the right and Scurlock would be in the wrong. The fact that several people knocked Gardner to the ground for having a gun makes this even more true. Bearing arms is a fundamental right, and it is an act of aggression to physically tackle someone for exercising it. The intolerance, nastiness, and destructiveness demonstrated by supporters of the BLM movement is unacceptable, and I support anyone who has the courage and independence of thought to stand up to these bullies. 

Making things even worse, after causing Gardner’s death with these unjust charges, Franklin insulted him. “I think it’s contrary to the beliefs that I have, for anyone to engage in that sort of conduct,” he said of Gardner’s suicide. “But beyond my personal beliefs, him doing so deprived the community from having this evidence play out at trial.” Franklin also relayed a comment from a friend: “You have two families, devastated by the loss of a son, or brother, or father. But that’s what hate produces.”

This statement is true, but in the opposite way that Franklin and his friend intended. There was nothing hateful about Gardner’s actions. He was simply trying to defend his business, his father, and himself. It is the rioting mobs, who began their senseless destruction shortly after the death of George Floyd and four months later show no signs of stopping, who are truly hateful. Supporting a movement based on the presumption that most people are racists who think that black lives do not matter, smashing and burning property, destroying businesses, verbally and physically accosting innocent people, and bullying into silence anyone who dares to disagree with their opinions… these are all acts of hatred. Assuming because of his race that Gardner was the aggressor, demanding that he be charged, and slandering him on social media, these are acts of hatred as well. So yes, Gardner’s death, tragically, is exactly what hate produces. And even his death wasn’t enough to satisfy the hateful mobs. “People are rejoicing and carrying on and celebrating because another life was lost,” Gardner’s cousin told KETV

To every person who participated in or encouraged destructive riots, to every person who criticized Gardner on social media, to every person who demanded that he face legal action, to every person who presumed his guilt, to every grand juror who voted to indict him, and to special prosecutor Frederick Franklin: Jake Gardner’s blood is on your hands. 

bookmark_borderMark and Patricia McCloskey have every right to defend themselves

In a now viral video, a husband and wife in St. Louis, Missouri named Mark and Patricia McCloskey decided to defend themselves and their home against a large group of Black Lives Matter protesters. The mob of protesters broke through a gate and marched down the private street where the McCloskeys’ home is located. In response, Mark and Patricia pointed guns at the mob from their porch.

Mark McCloskey defended his and Patricia’s actions in an interview with KMOV-TV:

“It was like the storming of the Bastille, the gate came down and a large crowd of angry, aggressive people poured through. I was terrified that we’d be murdered within seconds. Our house would be burned down, our pets would be killed. A mob of at least 100 smashed through the historic wrought iron gates of Portland Place, destroying them, rushed towards my home where my family was having dinner outside and put us in fear for our lives. One fellow standing right in front of me pulled out two pistol magazines, clicked them together and said, ‘You’re next.’ That was the first death threat we got that night.”

The McCloskeys’ attorney added that they are both personal injury lawyers who represent victims of police brutality, and they actually support the message of BLM.

Despite the fact that this looks like a clear case of self-defense, numerous people have alleged that the McCloskeys’ conduct constitutes “assault” and have demanded that they be punished.

For example, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner announced that her office would be investigating. She said: “I am alarmed at the events that occurred over the weekend, where peaceful protesters were met by guns and a violent assault. We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation or threat of deadly force will not be tolerated.”

Attorney Don Calloway tweeted that Mark McCloskey “committed an assault” and “should be arrested and charged with assault immediately.” And Attorney Mark Zaid tweeted that “their actions should have consequences.”

Attorney Eric Banks told St. Louis Public Radio: “You cannot act with impunity, come out of your house with an automatic weapon, and point it in the direction of the people coming down the street. It’s just beyond the pale.”

Sunny Hostin, co-host of The View, said: “If there’s a peaceful protest and you feel threatened, I don’t know why you decide to go outside of your home and brandish a weapon. Don’t you stay inside of your home and call the police? So it just seems to me that there is quite a disconnect there, because what they did was very aggressive. There wasn’t a need to brandish a weapon in a threatening way.”

There is a petition titled, “Have the McCloskeys disbarred for Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.” The organizer of the petition writes that the McCloskeys “need to be held accountable.”

According to St. Louis Public Radio, the Missouri Bar Association has, indeed, received dozens of calls demanding that the McCloskeys’ law licenses be revoked, and cyberbullies have left thousands of negative reviews on their law firm’s Facebook page.

This is ridiculous. First of all, the McCloskeys did not commit assault. Anyone with even a basic understanding of logic would agree that in order for an action to constitute assault, something needs to actually touch the person allegedly being assaulted. The McCloskeys did not fire their guns. They did not go over to the protesters and hit anyone over the head with the guns. Neither Mark nor Patricia nor either of the guns nor any bullets made any physical contact with any of the protesters. Therefore, no assault took place.

Second, the protesters were in the wrong because they trespassed on private property. Anyone who trespasses on private property is automatically the aggressor and bears 100% of the responsibility for any confrontation or conflict that takes place as a result. In an article arguing that the McCloskeys are “screwed, and rightfully so,” Jim Swift at the The Bulwark writes: “Members of that community are not empowered to enforce trespass laws by pointing guns at unarmed people. This is why you call the police… Crimes committed on private property are not exempted from legal scrutiny.” But the McCloskeys did call police. Additionally, contrary to Swift’s claim, people do have the right to enforce trespass laws by pointing guns at unarmed people. The fact that the trespassers are unarmed is irrelevant. The only relevant fact is that they trespassed on someone else’s property. Therefore, they deserved to have guns pointed at them. Anyone who trespasses on someone else’s property deserves whatever treatment the property owner deems necessary to defend his or her property. The fact that the protesters trespassed makes the McCloskeys’ actions not a crime.

Finally, those demanding the McCloskeys’ arrest point out that under Missouri law, it constitutes “unlawful use of weapons” to “exhibit, in the presence of one or more persons, any weapon readily capable of lethal use in an angry or threatening manner.” But the mob of protesters were clearly acting in a more threatening way than either Mark or Patricia McCloskey. According to Mark, nearly 100 angry protesters broke through a gate, and one pulled out pistol magazines and said “you’re next.” Even if you don’t believe his version of events, the number of protesters and the mere fact that they were trespassing on private property should be enough to consider the McCloskeys innocent of any criminal offense. Whenever you have a conflict with two people on one side and hundreds of people on the other side, the two people are almost always in the right. How could a crowd of protesters be intimidated or threatened by two individuals? Hundreds of people are inherently more intimidating and threatening than two people, regardless of who is armed and who isn’t.

In conclusion, the McCloskeys did not commit assault or unlawful use of weapons. They did not intimidate anyone and they were not aggressive; they defended themselves against an intimidating mob. They should not be arrested or disbarred. They do not “need to be held accountable” because they did nothing wrong. The only consequences that their actions should have are positive ones… such as this salute from yours truly. Thank you, Mark and Patricia, for standing up to the mob and providing a good example of self-defense for all Americans.

bookmark_borderMayor de Blasio got it right on cops driving into crowd

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is defending his police department after two police cars drove into a mob of rioters.

During the incident, people threw traffic cones and other items at a police SUV and moved a barricade in front of it. A second police SUV arrived and drove slowly through the crowd, while the first moved forward a higher speed, sending people sprawling but not causing any serious injuries. According to NBC News, the police SUV was hit with rocks, bottles, and a burning trash bag, and officers were concerned that they might run someone over if they backed up.

“It is inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers,” de Blasio said. “That’s wrong on its face…. If a police officer is in that situation, they have to get out of that situation.”

De Blasio also pointed out that the cops “didn’t start the situation,” the group of people converging on the police car did.

In my opinion, he is 100% right. When a mob of people surrounds a person’s car, what is the person supposed to do? The person has the right to get out of the mob of people, and driving into the mob is the only way to do that. Each person has the right to freedom of movement. By taking away the cops’ freedom of movement, the rioters caused the conflict. They were in the wrong. Throwing things at and threatening the cops makes them even more in the wrong.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has the wrong take on the situation. She tweeted the following:

How is the mayor’s absolutely correct take on this situation “unacceptable”? Ocasio-Cortez is wrong to say that running SUVs into crowds “should never, ever be normalized.” It does matter who does it and why. If someone ran their car into a crowd of people who were just standing there and not aggressing against anyone, then yes, that would be wrong. But in this case, the crowd of people aggressed against the cops by blocking their way, thereby violating their right to freedom of movement. When someone violates your rights, you have a right to fight back. The NYPD officers in this case acted in self-defense. There’s nothing wrong with “normalizing” their actions, because they did nothing wrong. Whether someone is aggressing or acting in self-defense absolutely matters, and it is disturbing that a member of the House of Representatives thinks it doesn’t.