Columns

Liberal Mayors and the Appeasement of Rioters

Police face off with activists during a protest march in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of the Brooklyn borough of New York on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Demonstrators took to the streets of the city to protest the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

The Wall Street Journal published an editorial today skewering the mayors of liberal cities for trying to appease violent demonstrators by agreeing with the premise of their destructive actions and not enforcing the law.

The “broken-windows” school of policing says that you can help maintain public order by taking care of even small examples of disorder—such as fixing broken windows. Liberals scorned that policy in the last decade as somehow racist. Well, in recent days we’ve learned that America’s left does have a broken-windows policy: Let rioters break enough windows and loot enough stores and maybe their righteous anger will be satisfied.

If you listen to mayors like Minneapolis’s Jacob Frey or Philadelphia’s Jim Kenney, you realize immediately that they believe the rioters are right and they almost apologize for having to crack down on the violence. In Philadephia, officers were surrounded by dozens of “protesters” who began to rock the car they were in. When SWAT showed up, they had rocks and bottles thrown at them. Police were forced to use tear gas to enable a retreat.

Kenney tweeted, “There may have been additional uses of tear gas. I am deeply concerned by this development. All of these incidents will be investigated by Internal Affairs.” The editorial came to the conclusion that “Police are threatened by a mob, the officers defend themselves by non-lethal means, and the mayor wants to investigate the police. No wonder rioters feel they can do whatever they want.”

Indeed, there’s nothing subtle about the messages being sent to rioters and anarchists by liberal mayors. Nowhere is this more evident than in New York City, where Governor Andrew Cuomo refuses to call out the National Guard and Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t deploy sufficient police to enforce the law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had set an 11 p.m. curfew but somehow managed not to enforce it. TV cameras showed gangs of youths working as teams to loot one store, then move on to another. Overwhelmed police could do little more than wave their clubs and hope to catch one or two as they sprinted past on their way to their next target.

The NYPD has some 36,000 officers. How could they not be deployed in enough numbers to contain this rampage? And how can these public officials not deploy the National Guard to assist the police in restoring public order and protecting the innocent? This wasn’t the first night of mayhem. It was the fourth in a row, and the police clearly knew what could happen. The only explanation is that Messrs. Cuomo and de Blasio lack the political will to stop it.

Cuomo, de Blasio, and other liberal mayors actually believe the rioters are thinking coherently. They are “angry” at racism, “upset” about the death of George Floyd, and “sick and tired” of being treated badly by white people. In the real world where the rest of us reside, we know that’s crazy. Rioters riot because they enjoy the atavistic thrill of watching stuff burn, and get emotional satisfaction from simple destruction.

And they can only be stopped by superior force being used against them.

What all these cities have in common is that they are led by Democrats who seem to have bought into the belief that the police are a bigger problem than rampant disorder. They are either cowed by their party’s left, or they agree that America is systemically racist and rioting is a justified expression of anger against it. They offer pro forma disapproval of law breakers but refuse to act to stop them.

Those cities will continue to burn as long as the police are constrained from acting with enough force to protect lives and property. The cops need help. And the biggest help they can get is if the political elites in those cities back them to the fullest.