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Fragile Justice and The Rule Of Law

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Steve Helber

Editor's Note: This post was co-authored by Loyd Pettegrew.

There is a widely circulated story that as Ben Franklin was leaving the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787 and was asked by an interested citizen what kind of government had been created for the new nation. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”


Events over the past week give special and urgent emphasis to Franklin’s concern for the fragile nature of our constitutional republic. Franklin recognized that the Constitution had flaws and limitations, and these could be aggravated by the passions and prejudices of the people it was designed to govern. This was an experiment in government by the people and for the people.

The raucous and often violent demonstrations and riots occurring in many of the major cities across our nation have wounded the nation every bit as much as the alleged “open wound” identified and labeled by Joe Biden and the Democrats. Civilized conduct in human affairs has a life that can be suffocated by chaos and mob rule. There is certainly a need for legal justice for George Floyd but that justice had already begun with the arrest of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed him, and the firing of his fellow officers who stood and watched the crime.

Hypocritically, there has been scant media coverage of and no protestations about David Patrick Underwood, a black Homeland Security officer who was gunned down while protecting the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Oakland that protects America’s unalienable rights always, not just during the riots. Real justice simply cannot be achieved by criminal actions with an underlying assumption that the ends may somehow justify the means. Willis Krumholz recounts three deaths in Minneapolis from the riots as the result of police pulling away from pockets of rioting and 911 calls going unanswered. 


As a Constitutional Republic, the United States defines rights and responsibilities for all citizens and government institutions alike. This form of government can only work when the principle of “Rule of Law’ is fully embraced by everyone. Our rule of law holds ALL persons, institutions, and entities accountable to laws which are: publicly promulgated, equally enforced, independently adjudicated, and consistent with international human rights. It is not morally or legally correct for protestors to violate the rights of others by destroying property, looting, assaulting police officers and fellow citizens, and defacing government buildings. You cannot break the law, in the name of the law, and expect justice for all to be safeguarded.

The first night after George Floyd was murdered, there was only disturbance in Minneapolis. In the following days we have learned that George Soros paid for “professional” antifa disrupters to organize riots on a national scale. In those succeeding nights, violence multiplied both in tenor and scope. Many of America’s great cities were staging sites for mayhem. The fawning MSM showed private property being raised and looted. The story line in the New York Times was, “Trump Deploys the Full Might of Federal Law Enforcement to Crush Protests.” The Washington Post also genuflected to progressive hyperbole with “Biden Decries Trump's Show of Force, Vows to Heal, Unite.” Even the Wall Street Journal announced, “Trump Calls for Force on Protests.” Equally strident headlines have been presented in newspapers across our nation, advancing the idea that our President is against protesting. This is patently false and reflects media enragement syndrome (MES). Trump, as most Americans are, is against rioting, property destruction and looting. Trump, as most Americans are, is against rioting, property destruction and looting. Heather MacDonald discusses the false “academic victimology narrative” and how the national media neglect interracial crime statistics where between 2010 and 2015 85.5% of all black-white interracial violence was black-on-white crime, or that fact that black-on-white robberies and savage assaults on passersby rose in Minneapolis late last year.


What is blatantly false about the media narrative is the fact that protestors were never targeted, only rioters—lawbreakers.

This is not the first time we have seen many other misleading or patently false newspaper headlines and stories including those about Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School junior, falsely accused of intimidating an older native American man. These prejudiced and inaccurate newspaper accounts reflect inherent media political bias and exacerbate problems needing to be resolved.. When left-leaning and sponsored social media companies like Twitter, Facebook, etc. blacklist conservative voices, it should be no surprise that Trump holds them accountable. For example, Twitter fact-checking executive Yoel Roth, has ridiculed Trump supporters by calling his team "ACTUAL NAZIS," Who is holding the MSM accountable for promoting this lawlessness?  Is the MSM acting as a quasi-authoritarian power trying to make and adjudicate the laws that are consistent with, and promote its socialist political leanings.

The Rule of Law in America has a special meaning and élan for all but progressives in the United States. Our Rule of Law is based on the premise that all citizens freely and willingly endorse to live by the laws of the land. There is mutual consent between the government and its citizenry to live this way. This agreement stems from the importance of individual liberty found in our national DNA and Constitution. Destroying private property and maliciously hurting innocent people for one’s own amusement, financial benefit or political position is not and has never been a right. Just as the police officers who participated in the killing of George Floyd did not have that right, neither did the rioters. They are no better than those accused police officers.


While China and some other nations around the world condemn the United States as hypocritical regarding human rights enforcement, there is one very big difference between China and the United States. America does not micro-manage individual behavior. Individual citizens are free to choose their course of action as long as it is within the law. In China, people are forced to live in accordance with an oppressive government; the Chinese Communist Party rules everything and everyone. In the United States, citizens and government have a consensual contract of governance based on all parties respecting the rule of law.

Police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with the death of Mr. Floyd, is accountable for that crime under our rule of law. He is charged with 3rd Degree Murder and 2nd Degree Manslaughter. If found guilty, Police Officer Derek Chauvin will spend a large portion, if not all, of his remaining years of life in prison. He has also lost his marriage and his family will never be the same.  His life is ruined for his misjudgment. This is how he will account for his crime according to our rule of law.

The protests and riots that are now occurring around our nation will not extract any more justice for Mr. Floyd than the law allows. Sadly, as of yet, Davis Patrick Underwood has not enjoyed any such justice.

The shouts of protestors ring very hollow as we watch cars turned over and fire-bombed buildings burning, police officers and shop owners assaulted, and looters running from stores with armloads of merchandise. Those protesting that black lives matter, only have it partially right – All Lives Matter, All Property Matters, All Laws Matter. Actions contrary to the “rule of law” are more akin to mimicking the behavior of Officer Chauvin, than acting as noble crusaders for real social justice in America.


Our pledge as citizens should be to honor the rule of law in America. It recognizes and protects both the freedom of the individual and the role of government. Only by doing this can we prove that we can keep our republic.

Jim McCoy if an Associate Professor Emeritus of Education at Southern Utah University and Loyd Pettegrew is a Professor Emeritus at the University of South Florida.

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