On Sunday, a large group of Antifa activists descended upon a small number of people the group surmised were supporters of President Trump and assaulted them viciously while Berkeley, California, police largely stood by, and policing expert Heather Mac Donald says the passivity from the cops is a result of withering demonization from politicians and the media.
The Washington Post headline described the violence as an Antifa “attack” against “peaceful right-wing protesters.” This is not the first time Berkeley police have let the violence play out. Earlier this year, extensive property damage ensued from riots connected with a scheduled University of California speech by Milo Yiannopoulos.
Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of the best-selling “The War Against Cops: How the New attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe.” She says the seeds for police reticence to intervene were planted in yet another episode of Berkeley unrest in December 2014, as part of a four-day protest against the police by Black Lives Matter.
“The first day of the anti-police, Black Lives Matter riot, the police actually used conventional riot tactics of skirmish lines, of not allowing protesters to get dangerously close,” said Mac Donald.
“The left-wing Berkeley council and mayor, the next day, blamed the police for the violence, rather than the people who were using Molotov cocktails and attacking businesses and police officers and other people,” added Mac Donald.
She says the police could draw only one logical conclusion from that political response.
“The Berkeley police learned their lesson and said, ‘OK, our policy is going to be to allow certainly the destruction of property and if there’s collateral damage to people, so be it. We are not going to risk again the claim that we are an occupying, fascist force,'” said Mac Donald.
“They’re so worried about a lawful act of force being captured on video and the inevitable press reaction that it was the police’s fault, that they have simply moved into a hunkered down, passive position that, given our current levels of civil hatred in this country, I think is extremely dangerous,” said Mac Donald.
She says despite the political slings and arrows, the police still have a responsibility to their communities.
“I hope…they will realize that they really owe it to the law-abiding people of this country to maintain order,” said Mac Donald. “Police use of force is never a pretty sight, but there are times – whether you are subduing a resisting suspect or trying to keep order in a public anarchy situation like we had again this weekend – where it is necessary.”
She says the tone and extent of police intervention in these situations will ultimately be up to the voters in each community.
“It’s really up to the public to decide how much policing it wants. If the public decides we would rather have crime, we’d rather have anarchy than have the police use their lawful authority, well that’s their decision to make,” said Mac Donald.
If the police continue to hold back, what will we see?
“I fear real civil violence, whether it’s race war of left-right war. Both sides at the extremes are becoming more emboldened,” said Mac Donald.
Mac Donald makes clear that the most heinous act we’ve seen to date in this escalating violence is the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville earlier this month. She says that carnage is squarely on the hands of the white supremacists.
However, she also points out that many of the instances of non-lethal are instigated by the likes of Antifa.
“The left certainly has the bit in its teeth at this point. I hope that Trump still has the moral authority to say this is simply not acceptable. He ran rightly as a law and order president. He alone among the candidates saw what was going on with the demonization of the police, with the rising crime levels, with the resistance to cops, with the 53 percent increase in gun murders of officers last year,” said Mac Donald.
So how do we get to what most Americans expect in terms of law and order? Mac Donald says it is going to be tough so long as the media casts such a negative eye on police.
“The media has just been soaked, it’s been saturated in anti-cop hostility for the last 20 years but it has certainly gotten much worse with the Black Lives Matter surge that began in August of 2014,” said Mac Donald.
She says the tragic irony is that the media are hypocrites when it comes to caring about minority deaths.
“The overwhelming victims in the rising crime increase are black. Nine hundred more black males were killed in 2015, thanks to the Black Lives Matter de-policing, than the previous year. Even though the media think of itself as so Social Justice Warrior-like, it actually doesn’t give a damn about black lives unless they’re taken by a cop,” said Mac Donald.