Friday, February 17, 2017

Freedom of Speech is Not a Lesser Objective

I was in the Michigan Army National Guard and had riot control training. So I know what the UC Berkeley police chief is getting at here. But she's wrong.

I understand why in response to complaints that the police let thugs riot and disrupt a speaker, that the chief of campus police would say this:

In situations like that, we understand that if we go out and we engage -- with the level of force and the presence of the trained anarchist-style protesters that were present -- it will embolden the protesters and it will escalate the level of violence. And our officers exercised, I think, some very tough and extreme restraint.

She is correct that in general--and as I was trained--that you don't kill or attempt to seriously hurt rioters to protect mere property. Unless it is critical property to defend, you want to make your fellow citizens disperse and go home before they hurt people.

What the chief gets wrong is that the building under attack by the rioters was not some random laundromat or party store. In those circumstances, restraint is defensible. You don't risk killing to defend that.

But that general rule is not an excuse to do nothing all of the time.

The campus police were not defending a building that night. The campus police were defending freedom of speech. And the chief ordered her officers to stand by and let freedom of speech be burned and destroyed by street thugs on her campus that night.

And just because the local community likes that decision doesn't make the chief's decision right. It makes the local community complicit in the wrong.

Shame on all of them celebrating an attack on freedom of speech.