Monday, July 18, 2016

A new era of protests and violence

Twice inside of a week, police officers are ambushed and killed by disgruntled criminals. This is the sort of things that doesn't happen in America or in any civilized, responsive, democratic society. But, suddenly, it is happening here, and there is no reason to believe that similar ambushes won't happen again. The ploy — call 911 to ask for emergency response then gun down the public servants sent to answer the call — conceivably become commonplace. Already, police officers are thinking twice about calls for assistance and are taking precautions against potential traps.

What is different this year from previous incidents of anti-police violence is the ready access to all sorts of military-style weapons, from long, rapid-fire, high capacity guns to explosives. Militant groups or individuals can amass arsenals of deadly weapons the police have difficulty matching.

Although there is little solid evidence to explain what motivated the shooters in Dallas and Baton Rouge, it is widely assumed that these assassinations were staged as payback for the recent deaths of black men in encounters with police. The Baton Rouge ambush occurred only blocks from where Black Lives Matter stage protests almost nightly following the fatal police shooting of a black man in the Louisiana capital.

As any number of saner commentators pointed out, it makes no sense to attack police officers and other law enforcement out of anger over the actions of a single officer in some other place in some other circumstances. For a segment of the population, however, payback is more important than justice, and protest is more important than judicial process. A few individuals turn words of protest into violence.

If America is turning a corner toward total distrust of police and the criminal justice system and toward vigilante actions, chaos and anarchy can be the result. As the Republican National Convention opens this week, I fear for the worst in Cleveland, where concealed carry and open carry of firearms on the streets will make it extremely difficult for law enforcement officers to tell ambush conspirators from Second Amendments stalwarts. Anti-Donald Trump protesters promise disruptions as intense as the 1968 Democratic Convention. Clashes between anti-Trump and pro-Trump factions could easily dissolve into violence.

Distrust of police and criminal justice emanating from the convention protests could usher in waves of violence against police and other pillars of American civilization.

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