People wearing masks are running through the streets, throwing things and lighting fires. Clouds of tear gas drift through the air, partly obscuring the sight of some getting beaten up, assaulted and dragged away.
OK, this is only Venezuela, for now. But for how long? The country is only the most recent hellhole created by socialism; in that regard it is much further away from the United States than mere geography suggests. Some people, of course, would love the United States to be more like Venezuela. I mean the “anti-fascist”, i.e. communist crowd and their useful idiots who have been running amok for months now, incensed by the prospect and then the reality of the Trump presidency. They would love to bring Venezuela’s socialism to the United States, but so far they have only succeeded in bringing some of Venezuela’s chaos and violence to American streets and public spaces. Ostensibly they are fighting fascists, which is a loose definition, because if you are a hard left-winger, anyone to the right of you is a fascist. There are preciously few neo-Nazis, Klansmen and other assorted white supremacists in a nation of more than 300 million; certainly the pathetic, tiki-torch-waving crowd in Charlottesville was vastly outnumbered by the antifa counter-protesters. Both sides – the “fascists” and the “anti-fascists” – are odious, and both are the enemies of the sort of a liberal democratic society that we, the majority, enjoy living in. There are no sides to be taken by decent people in this fight; just because you hate anti-fa it does not make you a fascist, just like hating white supremacists does not make you a socialist. Disdaining both just makes you a normal person, occupying the vast middle ground of society, standing on the side of decency and law and order.
So both sides to this little Weimar 2.0 are as bad as each other, but the “anti-fascists” are far more numerous and will likely cause far greater problems for America, mostly because there are many who enjoy the left-wing stormtroopers creating mayhem for the Trump Administration and fanning the flames of civil unrest to tie the president’s hands.
The First Amendment, love it or hate it, gives everyone the right to express their views, no matter how odious. Both the white supremacists and antifa have the right to protest – peacefully. It is the right that has been increasingly infringed by the Democrat-controlled urban political machines, who allowed the streets of their cities – be it Berkeley or Charlottesville or many others – to resemble the streets of Caracas. The local authorities have abrogated their most basic responsibility to the citizens – to maintain law and order and to protest person and property within their jurisdiction. As Bob McManus wrote in City Journal,
It is not clear… how many alt-right demonstrators were there, though many reports indicate that they were substantially outnumbered by counter-demonstrators, largely drawn from the same crowd that has been rioting at the drop of Donald Trump’s name since November 9.
So, obviously, this was a fraught moment. But what would have been the outcome had the police and the Virginia National Guard—both on hand in strong numbers—done their duty, enforced properly obtained demonstration permits, and preserved the right of the warring parties to make their respective points without being physically attacked, one by the other and vice versa? It’s worth remembering that Charlottesville did everything it could to prevent the demonstrations, issuing permits only after being sued by the ACLU. And when push came to shove—literally—on Saturday, police and National Guardsmen were to be found only on the periphery of the brawling. Indeed, the Virginia ACLU reported that police were refusing to intervene unless specifically ordered to do so.
“There was no police presence,” Brittany Caine-Conley, a minister-in-training at Charlottesville’s Sojourners United Church of Christ, told the New York Times. “We were watching people punch each other; people were bleeding all the while police were inside of barricades at the park, watching. It was essentially just brawling on the street and community members trying to protect each other.”
Almost at first contact, Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer and Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and cancelled the demonstrators’ permits, whereupon police began funneling the alt-right protestors away from the designated demonstration site—and, some reports have it, toward the counter-protestors. The carnage followed in short order. Whether the breakdown in police protection was purposeful—that is, intended to quash a constitutionally protected demonstration and provoke a violent confrontation—is a question unlikely to be pursued in Virginia’s present political environment. As partisan eye-gougers go, Governor McAuliffe, a Democrat, is near the top of the list; Mayor Signer, also a Democrat, seems to be cut from the same cloth.
But deliberate or not, the effect was the same: when the sun went down over Charlottesville Saturday, the First Amendment was lying in the dust, and the civic ties meant to bind all Americans were just that much weaker.
And so today mob is running rampant through Durham:
'Peaceful protesters' toppling monuments then spitting & stomping on them. Where have I seen this before? https://t.co/cEKITtLTEq
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) August 14, 2017
Check out these brave heroes. They showed that monument dedicated to the memory of dead Confederate soldiers. pic.twitter.com/zG69tR5JE1
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) August 15, 2017
Why are the authorities allowing people to tear down statues? Where is the police to protect public property and public order? As anyone who’s been reading The Daily Chrenk knows, I have absolutely no track with Confederacy and suffer from no Southern nostalgia. I understand how fraught the historical memory is, and how differently people can react to a monument of a Confederate soldier or a general. But it’s not up to the mobs to take initiative into their own hands and, whipped up into an iconoclastic rage, go on destructive rampages through the streets. We live in a democracy, and the decisions about what stands and what disappears from our public spaces is to be left in the hands of democratically-elected authorities who follow the law and abide by the Constitution.
To all those who are either quietly cheering it on or allowing it to happen because after all it’s good to “punch a Nazi” or because it lights a fire under Trump’s backside, beware: you are sowing wind.