Despite registering my formal outrage on Twitter, Ferguson protesters continue their idiotic campaign of intentionally snarling traffic, a counterproductive move sure to engender disgust among the very people who might otherwise be sympathetic to their concerns. In recent days, for example, they have shut down bridges in New York City and Washington, DC.
Interestingly, I’m old enough to remember the uproar when Chris Christie was accused of shutting down the Fort Lee lane on the George Washington Bridge. People were outraged. And that was just a lane.
Remember the stories about how EMS responders were delayed? There was (and is) potential for real harm when traffic is stopped. And keep in mind that not everyone suffering an emergency will be headed to the hospital in an ambulance. What if someone is rushing her daughter to the emergency room in the family car, only to be held up for hours by protesters?
Here’s what I wrote about the Bridgegate scandal — some of which might be appropriate for the protesters to consider:
Traffic is a huge deal, especially for those living in places like New Jersey. It wastes people’s time every day, preventing them from seeing their families and doing their work. The notion that a politician would intentionally subject them to it — for political purposes — will stick in many a craw.
Look, I understand it’s not a perfect analogy. Nothing ever is. And I understand that these protesters are desperately tying to call attention to something they see as an injustice.
A string of protesters holding hands across the road have shut down I-395 by the D Street exit. pic.twitter.com/Kn02AGje0F
— Todd Ruger (@ToddRuger) November 30, 2014
But this is entirely unproductive. And I’m not just saying that because this transcends the normal paradigm of protesting. There are different types of civil disobedience. One type might lead you to disobey unjust laws — for example, today is the anniversary of Rosa Parks heroic refusal to give up her seat on a bus. Another type leads you to disobey laws deemed to be immoral, for example, a pacifist refusing to register for the draft.
Here’s the thing: These protests are typically in some way related to the actual problem or people involved. Thoreau protested taxes by refusing to pay taxes — not by going on a murder rampage. Unless the Ferguson protesters are concerned about the internal combustion engine, or smog, or something, the notion of shutting down traffic seems not only to be a non sequitur, but also a weird form of protest which is specifically aimed almost solely at entirely innocent people. (No, this is not an argument for protesters to begin targeting police officers.)
My message to the protesters? Shut it down.