June 1, 1968

The Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web Today created its own humorous tradition when the New York Times wrote a story attributing sex and race where it did not belong — ”World Ends; Women, Minorities Hardest Hit.”

In this case, the WSJ editorial isn’t funny at all:

The vi­o­lence that broke out in Amer­i­can cities this week­end goes far be­yond jus­ti­fied anger at the killing of George Floyd on Mon­day. The ri­ot­ers are loot­ing shops and at­tack­ing po­lice with im­punity, and they threaten a larger break­down of pub­lic or­der. Pro­tect­ing the in­no­cent and restor­ing or­der is the first duty of gov­ern­ment.
The vi­o­lent scenes in more than 30 cities were the worst in decades. Min­neapolis po­lice were over­run on Fri­day as neigh­bor­hoods and a po­lice precinct burned. Los An­ge­les po­lice were as­saulted and their ve­hi­cles van­dal­ized and burned. In Mil­wau­kee a 38-year-old po­lice of­fi­cer was shot and 16 build­ings were looted. In Dal­las a shopowner try­ing to de­fend his prop­erty with a ma­chete was stoned, beaten and left bleed­ing in the street.Amer­i­cans watch­ing on TV saw re­porters grabbed and pushed by pro­testers who flashed ob­scene ges­tures for the cam­eras. Po­lice were pelted with rocks and bot­tles amid “De­fund the Po­lice” signs. May­ors across the coun­try set cur­fews, and in Min­neapolis and else­where the Na­tional Guard was called in.
This was more than spon­ta­neous anger at the grotesque video of a white cop, Derek Chau­vin, kneel­ing on the neck of the African-Amer­i­can Floyd for nearly nine min­utes as he pleaded to breathe. Many protests were peace­ful. But the ri­ots in many places had the ear­marks of planned chaos by those us­ing Floyd as an ex­cuse for crim­i­nality.
Gov. Tim Walz blamed ag­i­ta­tors from out­side Min­nesota, in­clud­ing white su­prema­cists and drug car­tels, for feed­ing the vi­o­lence, though he of­fered no ev­i­dence. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bill Barr on Sat­ur­day blamed much of the trou­ble on “an­ar­chis­tic and far left ex­trem­ists, us­ing An­tifa-like tac­tics, many of whom travel from out of state to pro­mote the vi­o­lence.”
An­tifa are loosely af­fil­i­ated ag­i­ta­tors who claim to be anti-fas­cists. They dress in black and cover their heads, of­ten let­ting oth­ers man the front lines while di­rect­ing as­saults on po­lice from a dis­tance.
Amid this chaos, po­lice in most cities have shown no­table dis­ci­pline. A po­lice car drove into a crowd sur­round-ing it in New York City, but even Mayor Bill de Bla­sio noted it would not have hap­pened if pro­testers had not been threat­en­ing. The risk is that, as con­fronta­tions es­ca­late, some po­lice will lose their cool and some­one will be killed, pro­duc­ing an­other cy­cle of protest and vi­o­lence.
Con­trast all of this with the progress of the jus­tice sys­tem in the Floyd case. Of­fi­cer Chau­vin was charged Fri­day with third-de­gree mur­der and sec­ond-de­gree man­slaughter. The Hen­nepin County dis­trict at­tor­ney brought charges in record time that he will have to prove be­yond a rea­son­able doubt, and he says he may bring more charges, pre­sum­ably against one or more of the three other of­fi­cers in­volved in Floyd’s ar­rest.
The Jus­tice De­part­ment and FBI have as­sisted the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, as the D.A. has noted. Mr. Barr con­demned the acts in the video and has launched a civil-rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Cur­rent and for­mer po­lice across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum have de­nounced the acts on the video as a gross vi­o­la­tion of proper po­lice meth­ods. Pres­i­dent Trump is­sued an aw­ful tweet that “when the loot­ing starts, the shoot­ing starts,” but his re­marks oth­er­wise have sup­ported Floyd and shown sym­pa­thy with peace­ful pro­testers as op­posed to ri­ot­ers.
Po­lice bru­tal­ity is too com­mon, and it should be pros­e­cuted. But these events have be­come na­tional causes pre­cisely be­cause they are ex­posed in the me­dia. Cam­eras on cops have made it harder to cover up abuses and may have de­terred some. There are white racists in our midst but they are con­demned every­where ex­cept in the fever swamps of the in­ter­net.
There are also con­se­quences for black lives when po­lice re­treat from polic­ing. Roland Fryer, the Har­vard econ­omist, has found that when a high-pro­file po­lice in­ci­dent goes vi­ral and is fol­lowed by a Jus­tice De­part-ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion, homi­cides and felonies spike in suc­ceed­ing months. “It’s cost­ing black lives,” he told our colum­nist Ja­son Ri­ley last week in a Man­hat­tan In­sti­tute video. “That pains me” and no one is talk­ing about it.
All of this poses a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge to the lib­eral es­tab­lish­ment that runs most of these cities and states. The may­ors of At­lanta and Den­ver were ex­cel­lent in dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween peace­ful protest and vi­o­lent de­struc-tion. But oth­ers have en­cour­aged rage against po­lice, and so-called so­cial jus­tice pros­e­cu­tors have risen to power in such cities as Phil­adelphia, San Fran­cisco and St. Louis. Now we’ll see if they pro­tect the neigh­bor­hoods they claim to rep­re­sent against vi­o­lent mobs.
The same goes for liberal media and intellectuals, who are in general portraying the riots as an understandable response to social injustice. Most of them live far from the burning neighborhoods as they denounce police. They ignore that there is no chance of addressing social injustice without underlying civil order. The main victims of a summer of chaos in America will be the poor and minority neighborhoods going up in flames.

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