I find the spectacle of governors and mayor who have unswervingly kept their states and cities locked down for the last three months but have suddenly become concerned about violating First Amendment rights or the right to freedom of assembly with respect to the sometimes demonstrators, sometimes protesters, sometimes rioters and looters who are destroying their cities baffling. They set aside free speech areas during political conventions why not now?
Yesterday I endured an excruciating presentation by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in which she and city department heads including the police commissioner, one after another, explained to us how hard they were trying. I am not their mother. I honestly don’t care how hard the situation they face is or how hard they’re trying. I did not ask the mayor to take the job. Quite to the contrary she campaigned for it. If it’s too difficult for her, she should resign and let someone else undertake the responsibilities.
I think I understand the predicament they face. They don’t want to undermine their own authority, they don’t want to aggravate the situation, but they don’t want their city to burn, either. There’s quite a bit of knowledge about dealing with crowds although for some reason or other it hasn’t been much studied lately. The main thing to remember is that a crowd can transform into an aggressive mob in which the people are doing things they wouldn’t think of as individuals with frightening suddenness. Really, sometimes all it take is one individual yelling “Hey, let’s start looting!”
If they’re unwilling to limit demonstrations to designated areas, far from shopping areas, they need to be ready to demonstrate overwhelming presence if not overwhelming force and be prepared at the same time for mass arrests, something that should take place the moment the first rock, bottle, or brick is thrown. Something else that surprised me was that they seemed to think that 500 arrests in a day was a lot. It’s a lot if there are only 500 people engaging in mob action or disorderly conduct. If 1,000 people are engaging in such actions, it’s not nearly enough.
They can’t allow the demonstrators to overwhelm the system. They’ll need to cut some corners. They should have a lot of cable ties on hand. And if incarcerating those engaging in disorderly conduct or mob action results in all of them contracting COVID-19, so be it. Certainly exercising their rights of free assembly and speech were worth it.