Now that Halloween is in the rearview mirror, Saks is decorating its windows for Christmas, except you won’t be able to see them because they’re behind plywood sheets like a great many stores in Manhattan. You see, they are preparing for rioting and looting. Whether it will happen remains to be seen, but as the coasties say, semper paratus.
To his credit, Joe Biden has condemned rioting and looting, and been roundly excoriated by his supporters who use the hashtag #SettleForBiden as they await the great coming of WokeWorld when he either capitulates to AOC’s demands or Kamala Harris shoves the knife in his back. But what to do about it, beyond saying words, remains a mystery. If there’s rioting, if there’s looting, then what?
Philadelphia’s prohibition passed amid a week of rioting after police shot and killed a 27-year-old black man. As of Friday 58 police officers had sustained injuries, including one whose leg was broken after she was deliberately run over by a truck. The city also reported 443 incidents of looting. Rioters used explosives in an attempt to break into 22 automated-teller machines, and they damaged 18 police and fire vehicles.
Such scenes of urban anarchy have become depressingly routine, and Americans are on edge. This year has seen a record-breaking number of people seeking to buy guns, and big-city retailers are now installing plywood as a post-election precaution. All of this reflects a lack of confidence that police will be able to protect public safety and private property.
It’s not as if the police have covered themselves in glory over the past year. Pepper spraying peaceful marchers is the sort of outrageous conduct that gives rise to such prohibitions. My old pal Greg Doucette has been keeping a running score of police misconduct, some of which are atrocities and others not so much, but it’s undeniable that there have been a huge number of outrageous abuses perpetrated by cops. But rioters and looters aren’t peaceful marchers.
The problem is that without the availability of tools to deal with anarchy, and it is most assuredly anarchy (which the anarchists are pretty happy about), what is there to be done about it?
Despite these concerns, police also face new restrictions on their use of crowd-control weapons in Seattle, Berkeley, Portland, Ore., and other hot spots. Progressives claim such tear-gas bans will help de-escalate violent confrontations between demonstrators and the police. Yet when police are unable to use less-than-lethal tools to disperse riots, they’re more likely to rely on deadly alternatives like guns.
There has been an ongoing argument over who is more to blame for riots, the rioters or the cops. There have been numerous examples of the policing shooting, whether noxious gas or rubber bullets, prematurely, turning a peaceful protest into a riot. But then there have been riots. And looting defies almost all connection to any legitimate claim of well-intended protest. There are people who want a color TV, a Gucci handbag or Air Jordans without paying for them, and so they steal them en masse because why not?
Do we let it go? Do we making that “tsking” noise at the rioters and looter, but otherwise expect nothing to be done and let them do as they will?
And then there’s the question of what to do when they leave Fifth Avenue and come to your cul de sac. Gun shops have bare shelves for a reason.
The vapid contention that destroying property or looting stores for rich people is some sort of justifiable act. People are filled with fury, which may well be true, but does that mean they get to burn down buildings? People have suffered historic discrimination, but does that mean they get to loot Walmart?
If not, what is to be done about it? We still have police, despite the efforts to neuter their ability to either do their job or do needless harm, according to your perspective. If they’re directed to stand down, no protester will be harmed but no looter will be stopped. And if we strip them of their noxious gas or less-lethal weapons, the only weapons they will have are their guns loaded with live, deadly ammunition. When they face a crowd of hundreds, do you think the bullets will only land in the bodies of wrongdoers?
This isn’t so much a problem of ideology, but one of logistics. If rioting and looting are not acceptable conduct, and this is the case for almost anyone who hasn’t completely lost their mind, then what do you propose be done? There are only so many options available, and not even plywood boards can keep dedicated looters from their loot.