While the debate rages on about the violence and ideology on display in Charlottesville on Saturday, a prominent black conservative is fuming over the lack of an appropriate police presence to prevent the clashes and says whether or not we see a replay in other American cities probably depends upon the politics of the political leaders there.
The Charlottesville police admit they should have done more to separate the different protesters, but that’s not good enough for former constitutional law professor Horace Cooper. Cooper is now co-chair of the Project 21 National National Advisory Board. Project 21 is a leadership network of black conservatives. He says law enforcement has an obligation to plan for the worse.
“In the event that we are apprehensive that a particular public expression could lead to heightened tensions between communities, you don’t send your officers home for the weekend. You, in fact, call some of those who are taking off and say, ‘I want you on standby,'” said Cooper.
And he Cooper is dumbfounded that police were not at least ready to intervene as the likelihood of violence increased.
“The second that you get concerned that something is happening that’s going to be very aggressive and dangerous, you bring those people in. Our Constitution allows for peaceable expression. Freedom of expression does not include burglary, does not include theft, does not include rape, does not include mayhem,” said Cooper.
But while Cooper says the police could have prevented at least one death and many injuries by keeping order more aggressively, he says this is just the latest incident where he believes politics trumped public safety.
“We’ve seen it in Ferguson. We’ve seen it in Baltimore. We’ve seen it in Berkeley. In all too many instances, the voices of condemnation call off the responsible authorities to see to it that all parties stay in their lanes, and instead allow private mayhem to occur,” said Cooper.
“It looks like it’s precisely to let the private mayhem have its way over the so-called injustice that the media and the political leaders that are doing this have identified,” said Cooper.
So will the revolting images we witnessed from Charlottesville play out in other American cities? Cooper says that largely depends upon who is in charge in those places.
“If these things happen in jurisdictions where people are willing to allow the space for mayhem to occur, it will occur and it will not be good. If they happen in jurisdictions where leaders are willing to hold individuals accountable, we can stop this. I am hopeful that the latter is true,” said Cooper.
He says leaders can set a proper tone long before tensions and passions rise, noting stark differences in how protesters responded to the George Zimmerman verdict in Florida verus the rioters in Ferguson, Missouri.
“[Florida Gov. Rick Scott] insisted that they were going to hold all people who rioted and committed mayhem criminally liable and it killed off almost all aspects of the over-the-top rhetoric. The governor of Missouri (Jay Nixon) did exactly the opposite and we saw nights and nights of criminal activity,” said Cooper.
As for his personal thoughts on Charlottesville, Cooper says he urges everyone to always wait for the facts before leaping into outrage mode. He says an online mob mentality almost devoured the wrong person for the deadly vehicle attack.
“The prior owner of the 2010 Dodge Challenger had been identified all across social media and threats were being made to his family and his household even though this was a car he had already sold years ago,” said Cooper.
Cooper clearly finds the views of the white supremacists “repugnant” but takes solace in the fact that their views are representative of just a tiny fraction of the American people.
“That is not a significant number of the American polity. It is not a major influence in our country today, and when the attention is given to them, it is my hope that the little attention that they get helps to remind people this isn’t your next door neighbor. This isn’t the person you work with. These are very, very marginal individuals,” said Cooper.