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.