December 14, 2017

Source: Bigstock

Let me suggest a system that would work.

Assume that the Alt-right people do not want to get beat up, and listen to what they say about security.

For example, cops could take a cue from Amanda Barker, leader of the Ku Klux Klan chapter based in Pelham, North Carolina. Barker organized a Charlottesville rally one month before the tragic one in August, and to make sure everyone remained safe, she worked closely with the Charlottesville Police Department, giving them the benefit of her experience at dozens of prior events, suggesting changes in their operations plan that would make it difficult for the anti-Klan element to come into contact with her members. Unfortunately, they didn’t listen well.

For example, she suggested that the rally not be announced to the public until the last minute—this request was ignored, resulting in 40 counter-protesters for every Klan member that showed up. These were not “willing listeners,” these were active disrupters.

Worried about their safety, the KKK assembled 30 miles away in Waynesboro, consolidated into 18 cars, called the cops when they were 15 minutes out, and were escorted by two police vehicles to a secure parking garage. Barker had requested buses—past experience indicated that the safest option was to use buses from a secret staging area so that no one has to walk through a hostile crowd—but the city refused that request. A second mistake.

The KKK members then marched in double file to the park, staged their event, and marched double file back to the garage, all the while protected by lines of police on each side of the double file. Even with this level of organization, the counter-protesters locked arms on High Street to prevent the Klan from entering the park, causing multiple arrests which fired up the crowd. And people on both sides of the police line threw punches, launched bottles and fruit, shouted ugly chants, and in some cases jumped over the officers to get at the KKK members. Throughout the 35-minute program, there were projectiles thrown—apples, tomatoes, oranges, water bottles—and the loud shouting of the counter-protesters drowned out the speakers.

The wisdom of using buses was revealed at the conclusion of the event when hundreds of people blocked the doors of the parking garage so the KKK couldn’t drive back to the interstate and get out of town. The police managed to push enough people away from the entrance to get the cars out—even though the cars were hit with sticks and bats as they emerged—and, with no enemy left to focus on, the crowd turned on the police, chanting “Cops and Klan go hand in hand!” It took tear gas, a declaration of unlawful assembly, 22 arrests, and 35 injuries requiring hospital treatment to bring the crowd under control. All that happened after the Klan was gone.

Moral: Police intelligence units can learn things from the Alt-right.

Anyone who blocks a march, blocks entry to a park, or repeatedly drowns out what a speaker is saying has to be arrested immediately.

Yes, this is messy. It requires wading into the crowd and handcuffing people and taking them to a processing area. It slows everything down. It’s likely to cause sympathy for the arrestee, which means other people in the audience will start doing the same thing. They, too, must be arrested.

Because it’s time-consuming to make multiple arrests during a speech, the speaker must be given additional time.

One way authorities shut down Alt-right events is by telling them “you have 30 minutes” and then—after the first 25 minutes are spent on crowd control—telling them they have to leave. This is just another way to endorse the heckler’s veto. The crowd should be made aware that, every time an arrest is made, the organization gets an additional two minutes, even if it means the event goes on for hours.

This won’t stop until there are consequences for punishing the “willing listener.” This won’t stop until taking away a man’s right to speak becomes a crime.

I think these three changes—make the hated organization feel safe, make immediate arrests of people trying to stop speech, award more time to people being shouted down—would go most of the way toward restoring order to a public place where unpopular speakers are gathered.

Or we could do what we did in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the late sixties and early seventies. As a 13-year-old apprentice copy boy, at a time when most newspaper articles were unsigned, I was able to volunteer for events no one else wanted to cover. That meant I got to write about a) hippies, and b) Klan members. A couple of times a year, ten or fifteen Klansmen would drive in from their headquarters in the little Mississippi Delta town of Clarendon and gather at the grave of David O. Dodd. David O. Dodd was the child martyr of the Civil War, a teenage boy who had been executed for spying by the Union general occupying Little Rock. (The facts of the case are hazy. He probably did carry some letters intended for his uncle that showed Union troop positions.) The Klansmen would go through some silly rituals and then read from a book written in stilted Victorian English. Since most of them were only marginally literate, this usually created somewhat hilarious effects. Nobody ever came to these events except the media. I would duly write up the proceedings, turn in the article to the managing editor, and he would say, “Did anything happen?” And I would say, “Just what’s in the article.”

And he would spike it.

“Spike it” had a literal meaning in these prehistoric days of journalism, because he had a long sharp metal spike on his desk and he would slam your article down on it until there were 40 or so spiked pieces that piled up and eventually had to be cleared out so he could start spiking more.

In other words, the Klan was considered eccentric and irrelevant. Nobody cared enough to beat them up.

By contrast, I thought the most telling anecdote in the minute-by-minute account of the sad events in Charlottesville was almost a throwaway.

“At 10:45 a.m., a man with an American flag approached officers in Zone 1 and asked, ‘What’s a good way to get into the park?’ An officer responded, ‘Right now, there is no good way.’ Another officer suggested that ‘up the front’ would be easiest. The man pointed at the clergy blocking the southeast staircase and asked, ‘Through that?’ The officer responded, ‘That’s the only way.’ The man walked away. One officer turned to his colleague and said, ‘Welcome to Charlottesville.’”

One less willing listener for anyone to worry about.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!