Tangible Vandalism

Ed Morrissey explores political graffiti in Washington DC, writing that during Saturday’s anti-war anti-Bush protests, the police looked away as government buildings were defaced with spray paint:


The First Amendment does not allow people to deface government property, regardless of their motivation. The police did exactly what they should not do — made a political decision about enforcing the law instead of holding everyone equally accountable for their actions.

The people have the right to assemble and demonstrate for the widest range of purposes and policies, as long as they do not include incitement to riot, the violent overthrow of the United States, and as long as they obey the law. The police are supposed to maintain order and enforce the law. Having police stand around watching while a crowd deliberately violates the law and damages public property not only allows a mob to offend the community, but also demonstrates a lack of will that only encourages more law-breaking — if not at this demonstration, then at the next. Regardless of political orientation, the police have to serve as a nonpartisan guard against abuses by unruly mobs, and apparently the Capitol Police are simply not up to the job.

Laughably, the DC police chief tries to paint this as a victory, especially the fact that he roused Capitol Hill workers to clean up the graffiti. A victory would have had the offenders cleaning it up while under arrest. Instead of issuing self-serving rationalizations, Chief Morse ought to issue an apology to Washington DC, and perhaps consider adding his resignation to it.


Sounds good to me; that’s an absolutely pathetic performance.

On the other hand, Betsy Newmark argues that, “Of course, what the protestors wanted was just the sort of confrontation that was denied them. In that sense, the policy succeeded”. Though she adds, “But have we really reached the point that we must surrender control of federal policy to vandals so that we don’t have bad TV pictures of spray-painters getting arrested?”

Much like pre-Giuliani Manhattan, I’d say DC reached that point a long time ago.


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