Asked to attend a political rally to hear a candidate speak his or her mind on the issues of the day, a security-conscious and not overly courageous person in Iraq or Iran — or Russia or Turkey or China or Cuba or Venezuela... or a whole host of countries throughout the world — might reasonably decline.
It’s just not safe.
Add San Jose, California, United States of America, to that list.
Last Thursday, citizens leaving a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in San Jose were physically attacked by thugs showing both their opposition to Trump and to ideas like freedom, decency, non-violence, human rights, etc.
Of course, we all know the problem is hardly confined to San Jose.
What happened last week outside a rally in California’s third-largest city, and in Chicago and Albuquerque and elsewhere before that, doesn’t augur well for our Republic. The scenes of street violence appear altogether out of place to modern American sensibilities, conjuring up a feeling more appropriate to the last days of the collapsing Weimar Republic in Germany.
But pictures don’t lie.
Still, as disquieting as is the malicious, riotous behavior of those the media continue to ridiculously refer to as “protesters,” violence is hardly a new phenomenon. No, it is the response of the political establishment, of government officials, that casts the darkest pall over our future.
Take San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. Please. He cast blame for the violence more on Trump’s rhetoric than on those committing the thuggish crimes against innocent people not named Trump. “[A]t some point,” Mayor Liccardo said the following day, “Donald Trump needs to take responsibility for his irresponsible behavior.”
Friends and foes of the Hillary Clinton-endorsing Democratic Party mayor expressed their dismay at his remark. A Republican city council member summed it up best: “San Jose Mayor blames residents going to a presidential campaign event for being attacked by those who oppose the candidate.”
One day later, Liccardo clarified that, “I’m absolutely clear about the fact that people who commit acts of violence are responsible for their own actions, but Mr. Trump is also responsible, as we all are, for our own speech.”
Good to know the mayor isn’t for the violence. But it still seems that he fails to appreciate, or even grasp, the importance of freedom of speech — particularly political speech and particularly unpopular political speech — in maintaining a free society.
According to the report by the San Jose Mercury-News, the mayor also “praised the police restraint.” Only four people were arrested.
“I can say if there was a single excessive baton blow on anyone in that crowd that would have made national news,” Mayor Liccardo further explained.
But is restraint always a good thing? And is the avoidance of bad headlines more important than protecting life and limb? If your loved ones are being viciously, physically assaulted, is it “restraint” you are most desirous of in the police response as the blows continue to rain down on them?
Is “restraint” the same thing as “surrender”?
The Mercury-News reported: “it appeared to many onlookers that police allowed the violence to proceed unchecked.” Police Chief Eddie Garcia apparently confirmed these observations, with the paper explaining his viewpoint “that it was more important for police to hold their ‘skirmish line’ formations than to stop individual attacks.”
This appears to be similar to the thinking we’ve observed in Ferguson and Baltimore, namely that police decide not to even attempt to defend people and their property, but actually allow riots to happen . . . so criminals can blow off steam.
“Unless a victim’s life was in peril or the violence was ‘spiraling out of control,’ he said, officers held back to avoid inciting more violence and having the crowd turn on officers,” read the paper’s report. “He also said the 250 police weren’t enough to control the roughly 400 protesters.”
Where to begin? Isn’t violence by definition “out of control”?
Just how incredibly thuggish do “protesters” have to be if 250 policemen cannot keep 400 of these troublemakers from committing acts of violence against peaceful citizens? Why not call in enough police to keep the public safe?
And do we actually employ police who are so scared of the violent rioters now injecting themselves into the presidential campaign that they’re abandoning any pretense of protecting the public in order to focus entirely on better protecting themselves?
One more question: given the questions and answers above, what’s the point of even having police?
When politicians and police fail us, surely we can expect more from taxpayer-supported professors at our public institutions of higher learning. Garrick Percival, a political science professor at San Jose State University, thinks the rioters are “really in line with a lot of activism that has happened in this city over the decades.”
The learned professor told the Mercury-News that “we can expect more of that as the summer gets longer and hotter and the rhetoric gets ramped up by Trump and his supporters.”
For the record, I’m opposed to Mr. Trump and find his words (and policies) to be poorly chosen — and that is putting it charitably — and worthy of rejection. But sticks and stones break people’s bones.
Moreover, political violence against those who support Trump only serves to bolster Trump’s campaign by presenting the choice as between what many (myself included) perceive to be ugly rhetoric and what anyone can see on their television set is ugly violence.