News & Politics

Berkeley Cops Fail Again, But Ben Shapiro's Speech Gives Them a Chance to Redeem Themselves

Demonstrator Joey Gibson, right, is hit with pepper spray during a free speech rally Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

No one can claim it wasn’t expected. In Berkeley, Calif., police have once again failed in their duty to protect innocent people against assault from thugs masquerading as freedom fighters.

It is by now a familiar story, with the theme repeated from coast to coast as so-called antifa protesters take it upon themselves to decide who should and should not be allowed to express themselves in public places, and police fail to deter or confront them. Recall that back in February this same crowd, practicing the same tactics, forced the cancellation of Milo Yiannopoulos’ scheduled speech on the U.C. Berkeley campus.

As discussed here on PJ Media at the time, campus police officers allowed the rioters to attack people and damage property, forcing Yiannopoulos to flee the campus. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the campus police chief, Margo Bennett, justified her failure in this most elemental of police functions by claiming that “restraint” was called for.

After such an embarrassment, one might assume other police leaders in the area would take steps to avoid being similarly humiliated. Alas, at least in Berkeley, police chiefs seem incapable of embarrassment.

How else to explain the reaction of Berkeley P.D. Chief Andrew Greenwood, who, after removing his officers from a public park on Sunday and allowing antifa goons to attack peaceful demonstrators, explained the decision this way: “No need for a confrontation over a grass patch.”

This may be true in some cases, but it invites a question that should be obvious to anyone in law enforcement: Who is standing on that grass patch? In Berkeley on Sunday, a “No Marxism in America” rally was to be held in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, but organizers canceled the event out of fear of violence. Despite the cancellation, supporters of President Trump gathered in the park and were met by a large group of counter-demonstrators, including about 100 black-clad antifa thugs.

This was the cast assembled on the “grass patch” Chief Greenwood chose to abandon, and the results were every bit as predictable as the chief’s post hoc justification for his failure. Echoing his counterpart at U.C. Berkeley, Greenwood said he made a strategic decision to avoid a confrontation he believed would lead to more violence between police and protesters. He was apparently unconcerned about the prospect – no, the certainty – of a confrontation between peaceful demonstrators and people who make no secret about their violent intentions.

This is the shameful state of too many American police departments, where chiefs and their political patrons place a higher value on “restraint” than on upholding the law and protecting innocent people trying to exercise their rights. There wasn’t the slightest bit of mystery about what would happen in that Berkeley park on Sunday, certainly not after the antifa group arrived.

And antifa goes so far as to dress in something resembling a uniform, making them easy to distinguish from others less violently disposed who may be gathered in the same area. It is well established in the law that a police officer may stop and question anyone who he reasonably suspects may have committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. Anyone dressed in the antifa uniform is advertising his intention to engage in violence, and none of them should have been allowed to get anywhere near the park without being stopped by the police.

How galling it must be for rank-and-file cops to be ordered to stand by idly while antifa thugs march in formation and proceed to attack people without apparent fear of consequences. If the Berkeley Police Department, with ample warning of what to expect, is incapable of confronting and deterring these people, why did they bother to deploy for the event in the first place?

Some years ago in Los Angeles, a colleague of mine was in charge of a group of officers called to the scene of a labor dispute, where picketers were getting unruly, throwing rocks and bottles, and threatening to disrupt nearby traffic. The senior LAPD officer present, a woman more practiced in management than in leadership, asked my colleague what they should do. “Well, Commander,” he said,” we can either take care of the problem or we can leave, because we look pretty silly standing here.”

To her credit, the commander chose the first option, and she backed up her officers when force had to be used. In Berkeley on Sunday, Chief Greenwood chose the second option, leaving peaceful protesters to the whims of a violent mob.

The first paragraph of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics reads as follows:

As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.

It doesn’t get more simple. Perhaps some reporter could ask Chief Greenwood how he can square this basic tenet of law enforcement with the decisions he made on Sunday.

Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro has announced plans for an appearance on the U.C. Berkeley campus on September 14, and he has called on local authorities to protect his right to speak and others’ right to hear him. “I have called and will continue to call on all those who attend to remain non-violent under all circumstances,” he wrote. “I don’t need my free speech rights protected by anyone other than the police. This is still America, a civilized country.”

But some Americans are not so civilized, and it is the duty of the police to deter these people from doing harm to their fellow citizens. They have more than two weeks to prepare for Mr. Shapiro’s appearance. Will the police do their duty?