Editor's Corner: Tough calls in the riot-control business
President Trump, for some reason, was criticized for making remarks condemning all bigotry in the wake of the white nationalist demonstrations Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., which resulted in three deaths. On Monday, he made an official statement condemning the actions of said group.
His critics say Trump should have come down harder and more specifically on the white nationalist group that staged the demonstration to protest the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.
The event included not only those Nazi fans but also counter-protesters who showed up to give the Nazis what for. The confrontation was not meant to be a love-in.
Trump wasn’t anywhere near Charlottesville on Saturday when the riot happened.
Neither was Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, who ran for president last year, but didn’t make it. Kasich was not a particularly good candidate, but he is very good at issuing email statements critical of things that happen that he doesn’t like. Here is the one he issued Sunday in the wake of the Charlottesville riot:
“There is no place in America for this violence and vicious hatred coming from white nationalist, KKK & neo-Nazi groups,” he writes. “These groups are corrupting our country’s greatness. America can and must be better. This violence and hate must stop.”
Kasich isn’t altogether accurate in his statement, unfortunately, although it has a nice ring to it. Believe it or not, there are places in America that are known as centers for such violent and vicious hatred. It’s surprising that Kasich has never heard of one of them, because it is a town called Toledo, which is in Ohio. In fact, self-styled Nazi James A. Fields, Jr., 20, who is accused of killing a woman with his car during the Charlottesville riot, drove that Dodge down to Charlottesville from Maumee, Ohio, which is a Toledo suburb.
Fields may have moved to the Toledo area after being kicked out of the Army (couldn’t handle training) because Toledo is known, among other things, for its National Socialist activities.
So Kasich should check a little closer to home before issuing self-serving diatribes. He hasn’t done much to clean up Nazism in Toledo.
And another governor who could have done more to defuse the incident before people were hurt or killed is the one who has an office just down the road from Charlottesville, in Richmond. I’m talking about Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who once chaired the National Democratic Committee and also chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run for the presidency. A smart politician.
Did McAuliffe know the Unite for the Right demonstration was scheduled? Many people did, including the homicidal driver James A. Fields, Jr., all the way up there in Maumee. Surely someone would have told the governor of Virginia.
If he did know, he may have dropped the ball. That’s because there’s a general rule about such events and how to minimize problems that may arise. Here is what the FBI recommends: “You have to have an overwhelming show of force so the two sides can’t get together.”
Yes, law enforcement officers dressed in riot gear were on the scene, and in the air — two officers died in a helicopter accident responding to the emergency — but the show of force was insufficient to prevent the havoc that ensued because of the emotional eruptions on both sides.
Nazi White Supremacists, Communists, anarchists, people who burn down their own neighborhoods — unfortunately we know them all too well. Like snakes, they have a right to spit their venom because as a nation we have a right to free speech. And people have a right to protest against them.
The unfortunate but necessary role for law enforcement when these folks confront one another is to follow the FBI rule of thumb to show force and keep the troublemakers from hurting others. And at least a couple of governors need to brush up on that rule.