Donald Trump held a campaign event in San Jose, CA, last week (June 2). The result was a dangerous new direction in American politics: the use of physical violence against people who are your political opponents.
Crowd control operations are the very essence of nuance. During my Army career I was in units that had an Operation GARDEN PLOT. I (fortunately) never had to do this for real but I did train on it against some pretty aggressive “demonstrators” with some frequency. You learn quickly that if you apply too much force you get a riot or slaughter. If you apply too little force and you get a riot and maybe slaughter. As someone who has commanded and learned that when in command you are responsible for all your unit does or fails to do, I’m hesitant to armchair quarterback this event. Having said that there are indications that the San Jose Police Department did very little to prevent the violence at that event.
Regardless of what you think about Trump or people who cheer him on, the fact remains that Trump will be the GOP nominee and an increasing share of the attendees at these events will be run-of-the-mill garden variety Republicans. And even if they weren’t, no one deserves to be attacked by a mob. No one. No time. Last week, not only did the mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo, basically blamed the violence on things Trump has said in the past. In essence, the rally attendees who were beaten were deserving of it, just like the girl who gets raped had it coming because her skirt was too short.
To make matters worse, the San Jose PD seemed to do little to prevent assaults on people attending the event. They, like a lot of people, seemed to have the attitude that anyone attending the Trump event was fair game:
Andrew Zambetti was walking down the street with blood streaming off his head. “I was just walking right there and they came up behind me and socked me. There was like 20 of them,” he said.
Another man said he went to police to get help for Zambetti but got no response. “I went over to the police to let them know he was being attacked and look how they responded. They were smug. This one got the smiling at me. They ignored me,” the man said.
ABC News reporter Tom Llamas witnessed much of the same thing as the violence escalated. “Now the police were here the entire time, but they never seemed to intervene as people were getting beaten up. It seems like they were trying to hold the perimeter,” he said.
These were not instances of pushing and shoving and pelting with eggs. Very serious physical attacks took place. The one in this video could easily have been fatal. Note, at the end, the two identically dressed motorcycle riders who drive up, nudge the stunned man with a boot, and drive off leaving the man with the mob that had just attacked him. I don’t know for a fact that these were motorcycle cops but two identical bikes, carrying identical equipment with identically clad riders spells “organization” of some sort.
A statement released by the SJPD indicates that, indeed, the SJPD made a decision that a few cracked heads was preferable to confronting the rioters:
On Thursday, June 2, 2016, approximately 300-400 protestors gathered outside a Trump rally in San Jose. The San Jose Police Department designated two locations for supporters and demonstrators. The Department had an operations plan in place in an effort to ensure the safety of everyone attending the event. However, officers were confronted by some protestors who became violent, aggressive and began to throw objects in their direction. A majority of the violence occurred at the conclusion of the event. While several physical assaults did occur, the police personnel on scene had the difficult task of weighing the need to immediately apprehend the suspect(s) against the possibility that police action involving the use of physical force under the circumstances would further insight the crowd and produce more violent behavior…
The San Jose Police Department subsequently made four arrests for incidents including assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful assembly.
Four arrests? Really? Four whole arrests?
And now, apparently trying to place in a Too-Little-Too-Late contest somewhere, the SJPD is asking for video of attacks so that they can try to apprehend the assailants.
The whole story simply beggars the imagination. The SJPD could only have been overmatched by a crowd of 3-400 by simply being unprepared. Most of those protesters would have been non-violent and with little to no interest in becoming violent. At a minimum, the SJPD could have focused its attention on those individuals who refused to adhere to the designated protest areas. The SJPD claims that most of the physical assaults… the fact that they offer no actual number of reported assaults speaks volumes… took place at the end of the rally. In most of the video and still imagery that has been distributed the people attacked are going into the venue.
Are we really going in a direction that says a municipal police department can actually decide to allow people to be beaten because their chosen candidate or political beliefs are unpopular with that police department? One would like to be able to say that is not the case but absolutely nothing that happened in San Jose gives you any hope that is true.