by Robert Romano
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is calling for federal law enforcement authorities to investigate Portland, Oreg. Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler after an incident where Quillette editor Andy Ngo was brutally assaulted by left-wing Antifa demonstrators on June 29 amid a nationwide scourge of political violence.
On Twitter, Cruz wrote, “To federal law enforcement: investigate & bring legal action against a Mayor who has, for political reasons, ordered his police officers to let citizens be attacked by domestic terrorists.”
In 2018, Wheeler told Portland police not to get involved when Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were attacked by an Antifa mob during a 38-day demonstration at ICE facilities to protest President Donald Trump’s stance against illegal immigration.
Now, Wheeler’s hands-off-Antifa approach is coming under scrutiny as these mobs have been allowed to engage in violence and intimidation with minimal repercussions. On June 29, groups like Proud Boys showed up to support a competing #HimToo demonstration. The result was skirmishes across the city. What should have been simply two different demonstrations occurring instead turned into a scene from the Gangs of New York, with partisans kicking the crap out of each other in the streets.
Daryl Turner, President of Portland Police Association, issued a statement on Facebook decrying the violence and accusing Wheeler of tying the police’s hands, writing, “Police officers work to uphold the Constitution, including the right to free speech. It’s our job to ensure that our community can peacefully protest without fear of violence but right now our hands are tied. It’s time for our Mayor to do two things: tell both ANTIFA and Proud Boys that our City will not accept violence in our City and remove the handcuffs from our officers and let them stop the violence through strong and swift enforcement action. Enough is enough.”
Note, the Portland Police Association is denouncing violence on both sides of the skirmishes. I mention that because when President Donald Trump did the same thing, blaming both sides for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., it was wrongly pilloried. But really, it takes leadership to stand up and say political violence is destructive on all sides and must stop. You know who also said, “Violence begets violence”? Martin Luther King, Jr., who spent his career supporting non-violent protest as a mechanism for social change.
In the case of Portland, Ngo had warned about the imminent assault a day prior to the event on Twitter, writing, “I am nervous about tomorrow’s Portland antifa rally. They’re promising ‘physical confrontation’ & have singled me out to be assaulted. I went on Tucker Carlson last year to explain why I think they’re doing this: They’re seeking meaning through violence.”
Sure enough, Ngo was assaulted when he went to the event to report on it after posting several live streams on his Twitter thread. He had to go to the emergency room where he was told he had a brain hemorrhage from the attack.
Others too were attacked. Michele Malkin reported on John Blum and Adam Kelly who were also assaulted, writing, “Both John & Adam were beaten by Antifa after trying to help a gay man in a sun dress being chased down the street. While the cowards are masked, John and Adam faced the crowds openly and agreed to be named publicly. ‘I’m not afraid,’ John told me.”
One can question the wisdom of knowing that violence is being threatened and then showing up to cover or attend the event anyway. It’s an expression of free speech even to the point of danger. Ngo, Blum and Kelly clearly are standing up to the mob.
But maybe they should be afraid. These are not isolated incidents. Across the nation, Antifa demonstrators have engaged in political violence at Berkeley, in San Jose, in Chicago and elsewhere. They say they are fighting fascists or Nazis, but often the victims turn out to be journalists brandishing nothing more than smartphone camera attempting to capture these mobs in action. So, what is to be done?
The vast majority of people would prefer a civil society. Political differences in America are settled with elections. But that may be starting to change if this keeps going.
Locally, more can be done in liberal cities like Portland that I suppose are not so liberal anymore. An approach to addressing political violence will at some point require leaders to stand up and say enough is enough. There shouldn’t be a need for police associations to come forward saying they are being ordered to stand down.
Local cities need to confront rioters with riot police and shut them down. The state of Oregon has an entire chapter of the criminal code devoted “Offenses against the public order.” There shouldn’t be roving gangs brandishing weapons in a threatening manner in the streets, intimidating journalists and other bystanders and there not be a response. The outcome is in fact violence. Some are sincere partisans who are seeking it out and are looking for trouble, but invariably innocents are getting caught in the crossfire.
But Cruz has a strong point about a national approach. Organizations whose sole purpose is to use violence to achieve political ends, operating across state lines, would appear to be a matter that federal law enforcement could address. Attorney General William Barr should look into Antifa and other organizations that commit and seek out violence against their political opponents.
The scenes of political violence in Portland, Oreg. we are witnessing are just the beginning. The worst thing civil society can do in the face of it is nothing. A permissive environment is encouraging this violence and when it goes unanswered, opposing partisans appear to confront it in the streets. This is a power vacuum and a recipe for anarchy.
In short, our civil society is unraveling before our eyes.
Assuming a state of political violence is not the America we want to live in and raise our families, it’s time to let the police do their jobs. Public officials that get in the way are complicit with staging that violence. The civil society must be restored. Everyone, Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between need to speak in unison against political violence — before it’s too late. This is a sneak preview of what’s coming to all of our hometowns if we do nothing.
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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.
Photo “Andy Ngo Attacked by Antifa” by Danny Joaquim.