By David French
Monday, April 17, 2017
If the media accurately and comprehensively reported on leftist mob violence, it would see that a pattern has emerged: On campus and in the streets, a violent or menacing core seizes the ground it wants, blocks access to buildings, and shuts down the speech or events it seeks to suppress. This violent core is often surrounded and protected by a larger group of ostensibly “peaceful” protesters who sometimes cheer aggression wildly and then provide cover for the rioters, who melt back into the crowd. After the riot, the polite progressives condemn the violence, urge that it not distract from the alleged rightness of the underlying cause, and then do virtually nothing to enforce the law and punish the offenders.
We’ve seen this play out time and again as mobs shut down campus speech, occupy campus buildings, and even assault innocent people — all without facing any real fear of arrest or meaningful punishment. In the aftermath of the Middlebury College incident, where protesters blocked Charles Murray from speaking, surrounded his car as he tried to leave, and sent a professor to the hospital, academics from across the political spectrum said all the right things. But the authorities have so far done nothing. Conservative Princeton professor Robert George has taken to tweeting a daily reminder that the mob is still winning:
45 DAYS, still no one has been expelled or prosecuted for the mob violence and attack on academic freedom at Middlebury. #remembermiddlebury https://t.co/aeqmO2MSuH
— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) April 17, 2017
At Berkeley, a mob blocked Milo Yiannopolous from speaking, before going on a violent rampage that included arson, smashed windows, and assault on innocent bystanders. Americans were pepper-sprayed and beaten for the “crime” of supporting Donald Trump while the police stood idly by, letting the riot play out before arresting a grand total of one person.
Urban and academic progressive leaders can respond to violence with all the scolding tweets, sternly worded statements, and calls for calm they want. But until those who break the law and violate university policies are aggressively brought to justice, it won’t matter. As long as those who preside over our most prominent academic institutions continue to heed leftist threats and attacks rather than stand up for peaceful conservative speech, the rule of law will remain abandoned in favor of the mob’s agenda. And history proves that once a government abandons the rule of law, it has a hard time controlling the consequences.
Case in point: this weekend’s battle in Berkeley.
Saturday, we saw more clashes in what now threatens to become an increasingly vicious, violent war for control of America’s streets. Leftist “antifa” or “black bloc” rioters met pro-Trump “Oath Keepers,” bikers, and alt-right goons in a barely contained battle royale, with assaults and beatings streamed live and posted to YouTube. Police struggled to control the violence and often appeared completely absent as brawls broke out across entire city blocks. By the end of the fighting, Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer said, “Militias, alt-right, nazis etc. won today in Berkeley. They outnumbered the opposition, pushed it back, and held downtown.”
We are now teetering on the edge of a truly terrifying incident, one trigger-pull away from a slaughter. Campus and urban progressives have a choice to make. Is this a nation of laws? If it is, then it’s time to grow a backbone, protect free speech, punish rioters, and expel those who disrupt the educational environment regardless of ideology. There should be no more sympathy or leniency for the lawless social-justice warrior than there is for the lawless neo-Nazi.
Every single time the progressive establishment ignores, minimizes, or whitewashes leftist violence, it sows the wind. Americans have watched mobs attack police and burn buildings in Baltimore, Ferguson, Charlotte, and Minneapolis. They have watched mobs riot over politics and free speech in Middlebury, Berkeley, Portland, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Is anyone at all shocked that when the police hang back, others will step into the void? Leftists are fond of saying “violence begets violence.” If we don’t restore the rule of law, we’ll all find out just how right they are.