The Wall Street Journal:
The “broken-windows” school of policing says that you can help maintain public order by taking care of even small examples of disorder—such as fixing broken windows. Liberals scorned that policy in the last decade as somehow racist. Well, in recent days we’ve learned that America’s left does have a broken-windows policy: Let rioters break enough windows and loot enough stores and maybe their righteous anger will be satisfied.
That’s certainly how it looked when the June sun rose Tuesday over the broken glass, looted storefronts, burnt-out cars, and vandalized buildings in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Madison and other American cities. Public officials let rioters exploiting the memory of George Floyd run wild in the streets. Even after nearly a week of violence, these and other liberal Democratic cities let lawless radicals harass and plunder almost at will.
In downtown St. Louis, four police officers were shot after midnight. “I believe some coward randomly shot at the police line,” said police chief John Hayden. A 7-Eleven was looted and set afire, but firefighters were deliberately slowed by protesters in responding. “We had people lying down in the street” and trash cans were placed as obstacles to block fire trucks, said fire chief Dennis Jenkerson.
In Philadelphia, city of brotherly vandals, gangs of rioters rolled through several neighborhoods Sunday burning businesses and cars. They returned for more on Monday, shutting down the highway that bisects the city at evening rush hour.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said a crowd of more than 100 surrounded a lone state trooper inside a vehicle and began rocking it. When two SWAT teams arrived, the crowd pelted them with rocks from the road and above. Police had to fire spray pellets, bean bags and tear gas to escape.
At first Mayor Jim Kenney backed the police. But by Tuesday he was tweeting that “there may have been additional uses of tear gas. I am deeply concerned by this development. All of these incidents will be investigated by Internal Affairs.” Police are threatened by a mob, the officers defend themselves by non-lethal means, and the mayor wants to investigate the police. No wonder rioters feel they can do whatever they want.
In New York City, hoodlums rampaged through Herald Square and the flagship Macy’s store, Fordham Road in the Bronx, Times Square and SoHo, among other places. Nearly every storefront on lower Fifth Avenue was vandalized. A cop was struck and injured by a hit-and-run driver in the Bronx. This isn’t protest. It’s anarchy.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had set an 11 p.m. curfew but somehow managed not to enforce it. TV cameras showed gangs of youths working as teams to loot one store, then move on to another. Overwhelmed police could do little more than wave their clubs and hope to catch one or two as they sprinted past on their way to their next target.
The NYPD has some 36,000 officers. How could they not be deployed in enough numbers to contain this rampage? And how can these public officials not deploy the National Guard to assist the police in restoring public order and protecting the innocent? This wasn’t the first night of mayhem. It was the fourth in a row, and the police clearly knew what could happen. The only explanation is that Messrs. Cuomo and de Blasio lack the political will to stop it.
This isn’t merely about damage to property. It’s about destroying the order required for city life. Non-criminals are afraid to go into these cities to make a living. The police pull back from active policing, which creates more opportunity for criminals, especially in poor and minority neighborhoods. Businesses that are finally starting to emerge from government lockdowns have new costs to absorb and more reasons for customers not to return.
What all these cities have in common is that they are led by Democrats who seem to have bought into the belief that the police are a bigger problem than rampant disorder. They are either cowed by their party’s left, or they agree that America is systemically racist and rioting is a justified expression of anger against it. They offer pro forma disapproval of law breakers but refuse to act to stop them.
They should recognize that wide-spread lawlessness is not helping their cause. Americans have the right to protest, peacefully, and the killing of George Floyd in police custody is cause for anger and grief. But as the violence continues, Americans of goodwill will support the police and a return to safe streets as the highest priority. Police reform and social injustice will get a smaller hearing.
Public officials need to deploy enough police and National Guard to stop the mayhem. They need to channel the peaceful demonstrations by time and place, as American law allows, so agitators can’t use them to attack police to create violent confrontations. If they can’t or won’t do that, these Democrats will be complicit in destroying their own cities and harming the very people they claim to speak for.