This is getting out of hand, and it's long past time for President Obama to find his voice and speak out against it. There were more riots in Los Angeles on Monday, featuring "multiple acts of vandalism and several assaults," which LAPD chief Charlie Beck delicately chose not to discuss at length when announcing 13 arrests. The Associated Press reports on the latest antics of these "mostly peaceful" protesters:
Protesters ran through Los Angeles streets, stopping traffic, breaking windows and at one point raiding a Wal-Mart store, and a major freeway was blocked in the San Francisco Bay Area in the third night of protests in California over George Zimmerman's Florida acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Several hundred mostly peaceful protesters gathered Monday night at Leimert Park southwest of downtown Los Angeles, many of them chanting, praying and singing.
But a smaller group of about 100 people splintered off and began blocking traffic on nearby Crenshaw Boulevard, some of them jumping on cars and breaking windows.
At about 10 p.m., a few hours after the splinter protest began, police declared the group an unlawful assembly, and many in the crowd began to disperse.
Several protesters ran into a Wal-Mart store, where they knocked down displays before store security chased them out, and police began guarding the door.
TV news helicopters showed some people apparently throwing punches along the street. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The AP is comically underselling the extent of the violence and vandalism. According to the L.A. Times, the rioters "stomped on cars, broke windows, set fires and attacked several people." A reporter for KCBS-TV and his camerman were attacked; one of them ended up in the hospital with a possible concussion. A restaurant waiter was struck in the head with a hammer. The Wal-Mart looters were trying to bust open the jewelry cases when the cops showed up. Hunks of concrete were thrown at police officers.
Other demonstrators managed to completely shut down Interstate 880. The police ineffectually yelled at them to disperse, but decided to indulge them by not making any arrests. The Houston Chronicle reports that State Road 288 in Houston was also shut down by demonstrators for about 15 minutes. "No police were seen," adds the Chronicle. "The crowds allowed an ambulance to pass, but other motorists were forced to wait." Who needs law and order when you've got an angry mob ready and willing to direct traffic?
California Democrats were, predictably, worse than useless after the violence in Los Angeles:
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer sent a letter Monday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder supporting the Justice Department decision to review the case to determine whether Martin's civil rights were violated.
"I respect the fact that the jury has spoken ... but I don't think this should be the last word," Boxer wrote in the letter.
"Trayvon Martin's death was a tragedy and has raised many sensitive and important issues," she wrote. "We should explore every avenue in an effort to ensure that something like this never happens again."
This is exactly the kind of garbage that's egging these demonstrators on. There isn't going to be a civil-rights trial; the feds would lose, badly, and they know it. Barack Obama isn't going to throw away the middle-class vote by making his Justice Department look like a gang of politicized inquisitors, and aggravate the angry demonstrators by simultaneously appearing incompetent. Perhaps they thought the mob's energy would diffuse if they thought they had another trial to look forward to, but instead they're effectively putting an official stamp on the "George Zimmerman is a racist who got away with murder" narrative. Senator Boxer, and the rest of the government, should be speaking in one voice to denounce violent and disruptive demonstrations, and promise dire consequences for those who perpetrate them, not feeding their paranoia.
Judging by the comments of protesters to the Houston Chronicle, they've got a lot of paranoia to work through:
The rally began about 7 p.m. at Byrd Funeral Home, 2517 Wheeler, near the campus of Texas Southern University. Organizers said that location was picked for a reason.
"This is where they wish to send young black men - to the funeral home," Quanell X said.
It was a dramatic theme that was repeated along the march route with protesters solemnly pushing a casket behind a hearse.
Bianca Fisher said she wasn't particularly surprised that the jury set Zimmerman free.
"The mission of the judicial system is to enslave black people," she said.
Benita Gordon brought her son, Devon, to the protest, which lasted about 90 minutes.
"We're walking tonight for Trayvon," she said. "We need fair rules all the way around."
"Fair rules all the way around" evidently means "lynch George Zimmerman, no matter what courts and the law say." That's a great lesson to impart to your son.
We've also had the first few reported "Justice For Trayvon" beatings. One of them took place in Baltimore, where the Baltimore Sun reports eyewitness accounts of a black gang beating a Hispanic man while shouting "This is for Trayvon!" One of the thugs had a gun. They scattered when bystanders began yelling at them; no arrests have yet been made.
A jogger in Senatobia, Mississippi was also attacked, according to Fox News:
Police Chief Steve Holts told Fox News the alleged victim, who is white, was jogging Sunday night along Highway 51 when, he said, the suspects pulled over and ordered him to get inside their car.
???One of them asked, ???Do you know who Trayvon Martin was??????? Holts quoted the man as saying. At that point, the men in the vehicle allegedly attacked him.
The man, who the chief described as a young resident of the area, was treated at a local hospital.
Memphis television station WREG reported the assailants allegedly told the victim, ???This is for Trayvon.??? The television station and The Democrat newspaper reported the jogger was badly beaten and later dropped off on a road between Senatobia and Coldwater, Miss.
Holts declined to release any other information but said officers are searching for three black males in a white, four-door vehicle.
Arrests will hopefully be made, and these events will be clarified in court. Meanwhile, it's important that every government official and community leader loudly, clearly, and unambiguously denounce both spontaneous and organized violence, and not with any "I understand how you feel" caveats. A functioning society is absolutely intolerant of such things. No justifications are sought, no excuses are accepted. Indulging disruption and violence sends a bad message even to those who never engage in such activities, because it nurses their sense of lingering alienation and despair. Who feels good about belonging to a culture that won't defend itself? Who had confidence in the justice of a system that seems to think people violently rebelling against it have a point?
It's also vital for these leaders, from President Obama on down, to begin dispelling the aura of hatred and paranoia hanging over these protests. The people of the United States have a right to expect their elected officials to speak passionate, and persuasively, in defense of our society, rather than indulging these "white people just want to kill and enslave all the black people" fantasies, in the hope that carefully cultivated anger will fill voting booths in the next couple of elections. It takes courage to mount a robust defense of society, against people you count among your electoral base, but that is President Obama's sworn duty, and it's time for him to step up and fulfill it.
Update: The local ABC News affiliate is reporting that "police in Chester County, Pennsylvania are investigating an act of vandalism with racial overtones, possibly connected to the fallout from the verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial." A commercial sign company was set ablaze by arsonists, and when the firefighters arrived, they found the message "Kill Zimmerman" painted with red paint on the front of the building. Damage to the structure was estimated at half a million dollars.
Update: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that a white man claims he was punched in the back of the head, then punched and beaten after he was knocked to the ground, by a group of black teenagers who told him, "This is for Trayvon Martin." An eyewitness confirmed the details of the attack to the local media.