On Sunday night, a group of “aggressive protesters” reportedly targeted the home of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. Best sent a letter to the city council, urging them to “stand up for what is right” and end “the new way of doing business by mob rule.” She condemned them for their silence and not “speaking against” the lawless rioters.
“I wanted to update you on recent events, particularly those that occurred late last night. A residence of mine in Snohomish County was targeted by a large group of aggressive protestors late last night,” Best wrote in a letter to City Council President Lorena González and Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold.
The police chief reported that her heroic neighbors succeded in preventing violence. “My neighbors were concerned by such a large group, but they were successful in ensuring the crowd was not able to trespass or engage in other illegal behavior in the area, despite repeated attempts to do so,” she wrote.
“I urge both of you, and the entire council, to stand up for what is right,” Best added. “These direct actions against elected officials, and especially civil servants like myself, are out of line with and go against every democratic principle that guides our nation. Before this devolves into the new way of doing business by mob rule here in Seattle, and across the nation, elected officials like you must forcefully call for the end of these tactics.”
The police chief is correct. These violent mobs have destroyed property, attacked police, and endangered lives. The American system involves representation, allowing citizens to pressure their governments to make crucial reforms. Rather than engaging in this system, rioters have engaged in violent acts of destruction that often amount to terrorism. They are attempting to force radical changes through mob rule, circumventing the legal process that exists to allow for meaningful reform.
“The events of this summer were initiated in a moment of grief and outrage over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and so many other Black and Brown people suffering at the hands of injustice,” Best added. “All of us must ensure that this righteous cause is not lost in the confusion of so many protestors now engaging in violence and intimidation, which many are not speaking against.”
Americans can agree with Best that many cases of police brutality should spur local reform according to the democratic process without agreeing with the radical claims of Marxist groups like Black Lives Matter, which insist that most aspects of American society trace back to “white supremacy.”
In horrific cases like that of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in the confusion of a plainclothes no-knock raid, there are clear local reforms that citizens should advocate, such as bans on the practice of police in plain clothes busting into people’s houses without knocking.
In the equally infuriating case of Ahmaud Arbery, a former police officer and his son shot a black man in cold blood and the police department looked the other way, even after the former cop confessed to the heinous crime. This case revealed a horrific “old boys club” mentality where police will protect former cops from justice, and local responses should focus on breaking up that mentality.
In these and other cases, criminal prosecutions should punish those directly responsible and local reforms should address their enablers. Yet many protesters have engaged in wanton destruction, twisting the cause away from specific cases and specific reforms and instead claiming that these isolated incidents prove a menace of “white supremacy” and “structural racism” behind the institution of police as a whole or America as a society.
This rhetoric is dangerous and destructive, and the riots must be condemned. Sadly, many Democrats are either looking the other way or shamelessly excusing the violence as acts of “peaceful protest.”
Mob rule cannot be allowed to prevail. Best is correct that it is “out of line with and [goes] against every democratic principle that guides our nation.” Those who truly care about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery must condemn the riots that wreak havoc on American cities in their names. Our civil society depends on it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.