So far, three people have been shot during the rampaging, looting, arson, and rioting that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake. A video of the shooting shows police shooting Blake multiple times in the back after he reached into his car. An earlier video shows Blake fighting with the police and refusing to comply with their demands that he submit to arrest.
Literally nothing is known at this time about why the police took the action that they did. Did Blake threaten the police? Did he have a weapon? Why was he reaching into the car? We know now that there was a knife on the floor of the driver’s side of the vehicle. Was Blake going for his knife? Is that why the police officer shot him? Were the police in fear for their lives? We simply don’t know at this time, and we will not know the answer to those questions until an investigation has been completed. Every thinking person knows that to be the case.
Here’s what any responsible politician should have said immediately after the incident occurred:
“The shooting of Jacob Blake is a tragedy. At this time we do not know why the police shot Blake. The matter will be fully investigated, and we will then comment. Until the investigation takes place, it would be improper to speculate on the incident, or to make any further comment. We understand that people are upset, but we urge restraint. Peaceful protests will be respected, but unlawful behavior will not be tolerated.”
But that’s not what was said. Instead, before any investigation had been done, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers denounced the “excessive use of force by police” and invoked the names of other black men shot during police encounters. And there was more along this completely irresponsible line.
He said, “He is not the first black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.”
Even more disturbingly, here’s what presidential candidate Joe Biden said: “The nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another Black American is a victim of excessive force.”
That’s what Biden said based on a video clip that tells, at most, 2 percent of the real story.
It’s true that Biden later denounced the violence that was taking place, and it’s also true that Evers later called for people to protest “peacefully and safely” and accepted the offers of help to quell the violence. However, it was the initial statements by both politicians that set the stage for the violence that occurred.
Both politicians should have been completely neutral about fault, stressed the need to wait for the results of the investigation, urged calm, and made it clear from the outset that violence was completely unacceptable. Both initial statements failed to do that.
Irresponsible grandstanding like this by political leaders is a virtual invitation to troublemakers to go out into the streets and destroy lives and property.
Those cynical politicians knew exactly what they were doing. To further their own political agendas they were not only throwing all police officers under the bus, they were also placing the lives of every resident of Kenosha at risk. Their comments are the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded building. In today’s racially charged world, such comments are even more despicable.
Opportunists in Kenosha and elsewhere—predictably—took those completely reckless statements as permission to burn, pillage, and riot. Rioter, looters, and vigilantes on every side of the issue—some just out to cause trouble—came out of the woodwork. Death and destruction are the sad result.
There’s absolutely no excuse for political leaders furthering their political agendas at the expense of human lives and the destruction of cities. A looming election is definitely no excuse. When leaders show such appalling lack of judgement, it’s proof positive that they have no business pretending that they’re the leaders of people. They’re not. They’re unprincipled opportunists. They should be shown the door.
Politicians of all stripes must learn not to fan the flames of division. Those flames are burning brightly enough as it is these days.
It’s just a fact that there’ll be more police shootings in the future. The shootings will involve people of all races, but because black men commit a disproportionate number of crimes, there will be a disproportionate number of police encounters with black men. Most of those shootings will turn out to be justified, but some will not. Only careful investigation and our justice system—a justice system that has been honed over a few thousand years—can be relied upon to make that determination. Mob “justice” based on video clips are a very poor substitute for justice.
What’s not acceptable is for politicians to make political hay out of these awful incidents. Politicians must denounce violence and destruction and urge caution while the justice system does its job. They must avoid the temptation to “play to their audience.” A nation that explodes in flames every time something unpleasant occurs cannot last.
This is particularly important at this volatile time. For example, it seems doubtful that the police involved in the deaths of both George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks will be convicted exactly as charged—or at all. Leaders must clearly inform people in advance that if acquittals are announced peaceful protests will not be hindered, but violence, property destruction, looting, and rioting will not be tolerated—that lawbreakers will be charged and vigorously prosecuted.
And meanwhile, that slogan now making the rounds—“No Lives Matter Until Black Lives Matter”—must be clearly understood. The lawless people who use it are telling us in very clear terms that until they get what they want, they are prepared to do anything to get their way. The “No Lives Matter” are the lives they are prepared to dispense with. We must not let them succeed.
And politicians courting that crowd are playing with fire. Unfortunately, that appears to be the bizarre strategy that the Democrats have chosen for themselves as the November election inches closer. They refuse absolutely to denounce Antifa and BLM violence for fear of losing votes.
Governors, like Tony Evers, not only encourage the unrest, but refuse offers of help that could prevent death and destruction. To his credit, Evers has now accepted that help, but only after people died and his city burned. In the case of the Kenosha riots, the White House offered federal assistance to quell the violence. Evers initially refused the help.
This is difficult to understand, but it’s consistent with similar refusals by Democrat mayors and governors in cities like Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis—all cities hit hard by violent rioting and looting. The refusals of federal help have not only cost billions of dollars in destruction, they have also taken many lives. This is putting politics ahead of saving lives.
How voters will view all of this will be clear soon enough. It’s probable that lawsuits will follow the election, and these politicians will be held to account.
Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.