A Tale Of Two Riots

“A destructive, roving band of people broke into several Seattle businesses” on the night of July 22, the Seattle Post Intelligencer reports. 

They “roamed about the Capitol Hill neighborhood, doing massive amounts of property damage, looting, shooting fireworks, and committing arson.” Moving on, the mob broke into businesses, looted, started fires, and then “used baseball bats and pipes to break all the windows at a Whole Foods store,” threw fireworks inside, and looted. Next, they “damaged property at two banks,” moved back to the park where they had assembled, “and then dispersed.”

No one was arrested. When the owners of a shoe store reported that their store had been attacked, “police told them nothing could be done.”

Whether or not “nothing could be done,” which seems highly unlikely, it is clear that the Democratic city and state officials, like their counterparts in Portland and elsewhere, chose to do nothing.

Now imagine what the response of those officials and their supporters, who decry the presence of a few federal officers sent in to protect federal property more than the violent destructiveness of the mobs, would be if the mobs shouted white power and attacked black businesses.

In fact, no imagination is necessary. “On May 31-June 1, 1921, a white mob attacked residents, homes and businesses in the predominantly Black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma.” Large numbers of white Tulsans, “some of whom were deputized and given weapons by city officials . . . , poured into the Greenwood District, looting and burning homes and businesses over an area of 35 city blocks. Firefighters who arrived to help put out fires later testified that rioters had threatened them with guns and forced them to leave.”

This unfortunately sounds all too familiar.

It is impossible to believe that Democratic officials and candidates  would look at anti-black riots today with the same tolerant diffidence they now bestow on the Black Lives Matter riots in their cities and states. I suppose that should not be surprising, since Democrats long ago abandoned treating citizens “without regard” to race — in college admissions, employment, and elsewhere. 

Back in the day when civil rights meant enforcing colorblind equal protection, Democrats would have been leading the charge for federal intervention to protect citizens from incompetent or vindictive local officials who turned a blind (not colorblind) eye to violence in their jurisdictions.

Whether or not it would be wise for the president to do so, there can be little doubt that the Insurrection Act gives him the authority to send in federal officers to restore order, even if they are not requested by  local officials. §332 states: “Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he may call into Federal service such of the militia of any State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to enforce those laws….”

That authority was used by President Eisenhower to protect students integrating Central High School in Little Little Rock in 1957 and by President Bush to help quell riots in Los Angeles after the four police officers charged with beating Rodney King were acquitted.

Federal force may be necessary to restore order, but there are steps that could be taken short of that. As he explained here a few days ago, Senator Ted Cruz (R, Tex) has recently introduced the Restitution for Economic losses Caused by Leaders who Allow Insurrection and Mayhem Act (RECLAIM) that would “hold state and local officials liable when they abdicate their legal duty to protect the public in cases where death, serious bodily harm or significant property damage have occurred.”

You might think Democrats would enthusiastically support Sen. Cruz’s bill, since they themselves have just introduced legislation making it easier to hold pubic officials “personally liable for wrongdoing on the job.” But you would be wrong, since the purpose of this legislation is to make it possible to sue police officers. One can be sure that they will oppose Cruz’s legislation because they have no interest in holding the politicians supervising the police responsible for failure to protect citizens.

Say What?