There was a stark contrast between protests conducted by Antifa over the last several weeks in Portland, Oregon and in Washington, D.C. Authorities in Portland attempted to appease the group, resulting in more property damage and injuries to bystanders. Authorities in Washington engaged with the protesters, protecting property and people.
Unfortunately, Portland police failed to act. They adopted a model of risk avoidance and placed politics above public safety. Instead of addressing the group’s behavior and intervening in assaults, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw waited until the protest ended before calling for a ban on mask-wearing protesters.
The real problem? Political correctness run amok. It is infecting police departments around the nation. When someone violates the law, arrest, detainment and prosecution should follow. How many times are we going to see our leaders deflect from the real issue by proposing pointless laws?
Police should not be historians with guns who arrive to document the event. Police have a duty to act and protect peaceful protesters, journalists and the public. This is why we hold our police in such high esteem and recognize them for their sacrifices.
Moreover, anonymity is in our country’s DNA. Outlaw’s proposed no-mask law could have a chilling effect on freedom of expression. Dating back to the revolution, covering one’s face has been common as an essential form of protest.
Many police departments default to giving space to protesters. Some police departments have adopted a policy of containment over confrontation. This has had disastrous effects in the past.
Instead of changing policies, Portland should follow the model set by police in Washington, D.C. When Antifa came to Washington, police utilized planning and intelligence assets and embedded officers in protests. Antifa was prevented from causing real harm. Police protected reporters, the public and those who wanted to peacefully protest.
Planning, not legislation, is the key. Police departments should also embed fire department assets for medical care, removal of protester devices and a joint drone program at protests. Public works agencies should place heavy trucks to block streets and to prevent vehicles from becoming weapons against protesters and pedestrians.
Masks are not to blame for evil actions, and new legislation will not make anyone safer. There are more than enough laws on the books. They only need to be enforced, and protesters who turn violent should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Far too often, we see liberal judges dismiss cases or grant probation to protesters who cause harm or significant property damage. This sends a message that violent protest is part of our new social norm.
As a nation, we must not forget that our liberty was born from protest. It created a nation of laws where we all have the right to peacefully engage in protests. But when the law is breached, we should swiftly enact justice.
Frank Ricci was the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case Ricci v. DeStefano. He is an advisory board member for Fire Engineering Magazine, as well as a battalion chief and union president in New Haven, Conn. Ricci’s opinions are not related to and do not reflect those of his employer or the professional organizations in which he is involved.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.