For years, American cities run by Democrat mayors and city councils have been beset by serious fiscal problems. Now, however, these “blue” cities are reaping a far more tragic harvest of the mismanagement they have sown – violence and death.
What transpired in Atlanta over the July 4th weekend was sadly predictable, except that is, to the city’s mayor.
At this critical juncture, Atlanta’s police department has a leadership vacuum, with the former chief having stepped down immediately following the death of civilian Rayshard Brooks at a local Wendy’s on June 12th. For the past month, armed thugs have been patrolling a number of streets in Atlanta and adjacent areas without fear of arrest.
Meanwhile, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms dithered and preened before the media, hoping to elevate herself in Biden’s not-so-discreet search for an African American female running mate. Last Saturday, on a day most Americans were celebrating our nation’s founding, eight-year-old Atlantan Secoriea Turner paid the price for living in a city void of leadership. The child was fatally shot while was riding in a car driven by her mother who was simply trying to go around a barricade erected unlawfully on a public street by armed thugs.
Mayor Lance Bottoms publicly condemned the shooting, but pointedly refused to accept any responsibility for having created the circumstances that allowed the tragedy to occur in the first place. In failing to accept responsibility, Atlanta’s mayor was following in the footsteps of other mayors whose leadership lethargy has led to violence in the cities over which they exercise power, including Seattle, Minneapolis, New York, and elsewhere.
After-the-fact, self-serving recriminations by these mayors ring hollow in the face of clear evidence that it was their failure to act that created the very conditions precipitating the violence -- last weekend in Atlanta and late last month in Seattle’s so-called “CHOP” occupied zone.
Apparently, it comes as a surprise to these elected officials when criminals commit violent acts after the police step back and “give them room” to work their will. Unfortunately, it is not the mayors who pay the price, but innocent citizens, including defenseless children.
Compounding the problem, officials in these cities typically react in ways that make things worse. Atlanta is a perfect example of the tragedy that lies at the end of a chain of events started by failed leadership.
The violence that flared in Atlanta following the May 25th death of George Floyd in Minneapolis was met by city officials overreacting and punishing law enforcement. This misstep was exacerbated two weeks later when Atlanta’s top prosecutor overzealously rushed to prosecute a police officer, for what appears by all available evidence, to have been a justifiable shooting of a suspect who resisted arrest and wrested the officer’s taser, then firing it at the officer who returned fire with his sidearm.
The Wendy’s where the shooting occurred was promptly burned by an arsonist, and the site was allowed to be made into a makeshift shrine, barricaded and protected by armed thugs. It was near this sanctum that young Secoriea Turner was shot and killed on July 4th.
Neither Atlanta’s mayor nor others of these feckless municipal leaders seem to have learned anything from the history faced in recent years by their colleagues in cities from Charlottesville, Virginia to Berkeley, California.
The lessons revealed by these recent incidents are hardly of recent vintage. They are as old as civil society. Failure to stand up to the mob and backing away from violent thuggery never achieves peace and quiet.
It may be an ugly fact of life, but individual freedom sooner or later will be tested by those who would rob others of their liberty. Law enforcement – and more importantly, the willingness to use it – is an essential component of a free and ordered society. Elected officials who refuse to recognize this have no business wearing the mantel of leadership. Whether the citizens of Seattle, New York, Atlanta, and so many other cities led by such individuals will wake to this anomaly before there are more children murdered as a result, should be a key criterion facing voters this year and next.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7 District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986 to 1990. He now serves as President of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation based in Atlanta, Georgia.