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Vandalism is Fine?

Protesters graffiti pro-palestinian messages - Lafayette Square. - White House
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By: Charles C. W. Cooke – nationalreview.com – 

No arrests were made on Saturday when pro-Hamas protesters surrounded the White House and scuffled with police as they advocated for Israel’s destruction, vandalized property, and called on Hamas to continue murdering Jews, the Secret Service and Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon.

Thousands of protesters from across the country descended upon downtown D.C. to pressure the Biden administration into forcing a ceasefire on Israel following its weekend military operation in the Gaza Strip that freed four hostages. Slogans such as “Israel go to hell, Hamas is justified”  and “Death to Amerikkka” were graffitied on city property, and protesters blocked traffic as they held signs reading, “F— Israel. Stand with Hamas.” Other chants included, “Kill another Zionist now” and “Death to Israel.”

Many of the protesters wore masks and keffiyehs to cover their faces, in apparent violation of a D.C. law that prohibits demonstrations “while wearing any mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer.”

No arrests were made during the day, even as protesters vandalized property and clashed with police, according to law enforcement officials.

Can someone please explain to me, in words that your average ten-year-old could understand, what the argument in favor of this abdication is supposed to be? Suppose, arguendo, that I do not share the worldview of the vandals. What case could be made for their liberation that would persuade me? I can’t see one.

As a rule, I am very much interested in what other people think about politics. In my estimation, you cannot be useful as a citizen if you do not comprehend what your ideological opponents believe, and you cannot be effective as a writer if you do not understand why you don’t share those views. But here? Here, I’m stumped. Vandalism is a crime, and a malum in se crime at that. It is a crime at the federal level. It is a crime at the state level. It is a crime at the local level. Morally, it is considered a crime even where there is no law. I was taught as a child that vandalism was wrong; I have taught my own children that vandalism is wrong; and, even if I hadn’t done that, I suspect they’d grasp it instinctively. There is no ethical framework I can intuit in which defacing public monuments is acceptable, and no prosecutorial theory I can detect in which it ought to be ignored. Opposition to vandalism is obvious, widely understood, and value neutral. All in all, there cannot be more than 5 percent of Americans who believe that spraying graffiti on statues is okay.

So why allow it? As an American, I’d like an answer. Lafayette Square is a national facility, in the heart of our nation’s capital. It depicts figures from our national history. It’s run by the Department of the Interior, which is a national agency. By dint of my citizenship, I get to care about that. So tell me: What is the policy? Is Lafayette Square exempt from the laws against vandalism? If so, why? Is what happened there indicative of a broader set of regulations that apply to all our national parks? If so, why? Is there a certain threshold of damage that has to be reached prior to an arrest being made? If so, may I see the document that explains those rules? In 2020, we were told that property damage didn’t matter when compared to the sanctity of human life. Have we now applied that rule to mere arrests? When did that start? Or does it perhaps matter who is doing the vandalism? Obviously, such a filter would be legally fraught, given the First Amendment’s ban on viewpoint discrimination and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, so what’s the rubric? Can I read it? Will there be a press conference at which it is adumbrated?

Certainly, the problem cannot have been “a lack of resources.” This happened in Washington, D.C. — a few hundred feet from the White House. There were plenty of federal and state officials within the vicinity, all of whom could have called for backup if they so wished. Nor was the behavior a sudden surprise. The event was announced ahead of time, it was filmed and photographed while it was happening, and it lasted for hours. This was a choice. The federal government — along with the Metropolitan Police — decided to stand back and watch as a bunch of people broke the law in front of them, and, worse still, they allowed the execution of their duties to be prevented by the very people they were responsible for superintending. Per NBC, “Police said they attempted to arrest one person who climbed a statue, but members of the crowd intervened.” In response to this interference with police work, the police did absolutely nothing. Is that the practice now, too, to prevent lawbreaking only if those responsible don’t get in the way?

What about now — after the fact? Is there to be a post hoc investigation? Will the authorities try to find — and punish — the people who committed these crimes? If so, when will that process begin? If not, what is the reasoning for letting it go? Is it the policy of the U.S. government to let sleeping dogs lie when federal property is vandalized by political radicals? If it is, should we expect a uniform application of that rule, or was there a cutoff point? When was that cutoff point? What caused it? Was it announced, hinted at, implied?

Hitherto, none of these questions have been answered. Instead, the lack of a response has simply been pointed to as if it were its own justification. Our officials have confirmed that there were “no arrests” in the same tone as one might report that there was “no rain.” We deserve better.

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Source: Did I Miss the ‘Vandalism Is Fine Now’ Memo? | National Review