by Jed Babbin
Three cities, all supremely liberal, represent an American descent into anarchy against which no one is standing.
After New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wanted to slash the police budget, the New York City Council is going about cutting $1 billion from that budget, about 16%. That will inevitably cause a reduction of police presence around the city and, with equal inevitability, result in an increase in crime.
In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed in police custody on May 25, the city council plans to disband its police force entirely. On Friday, the city council voted to replace the police with a “community-led public safety system.”
What the hell is a “community-led public safety system”? And then there’s Seattle.
In part of uber-liberal Seattle anarchists — Antifa and other thugs — have already created such a system, the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ), to which police aren’t permitted to enter. Self-appointed guards — some armed with AR-15 style rifles and some, from what I’ve observed, wearing what looks like body armor — stand watch against undefined threats. That’s one sort of a community-led public safety system, but it has nothing to do with the rule of law or our Constitution.
CHAZ is a mixed commercial and residential neighborhood that contains one of Seattle’s principal police stations. That station was surrendered to the rioters who have occupied it for about a week. The anarchists have set up barriers to entry (and exit?) around the CHAZ.
Seattle police are reportedly not responding to reports of rape and other serious crimes committed inside the CHAZ. According to Police Chief Carmen Best, rapes, robberies, and all sorts of violent acts were taking place in the CHAZ. Earlier, an assistant Seattle police chief told reporters that there were complaints that the anarchists have imposed fees on business owners and residents for the privilege of living and operating there. She said that was extortion and invited reports to the police (who won’t do anything). The Wall Street Journal wrongheadedly wrote that these fees were a “tax.” No, the cop was right: they’re extortion. The rulers of CHAZ have no legal authority to impose any taxes.
On Tuesday, police removed blockades to allow protesters to storm Seattle’s city hall to demand the mayor’s resignation. Subsequently, Mayor Jenny Durkan has said that neither she nor Police Chief Best will resign despite demands by the CHAZites that they do so.
After calling the CHAZ anarchists “patriots,” Durkan completely surrendered to them. In a CNN interview Thursday, Durkan was asked how long she anticipates the CHAZ would remain a police-free zone. Seattle’s flower power mayor said, “I don’t know. We could have a summer of love.” Which means a summer of rape, robbery, extortion and intimidation for residents of the CHAZ.
President Trump has said that if Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Mayor Durkan didn’t restore order in Seattle, he would. But he has done precisely nothing.
What is going on in the CHAZ is a good definition of anarchy, and no one in the city, state, or federal governments seems willing to do anything about it. All of them — from Durkan and Inslee to Trump — rightly fear that blood will be shed in any action to restore order in Seattle. No one wants to take the blame for that, but that is not an adequate justification for leaving U.S. citizens in the hands of a mob bent on crime and violence.
The seeds of that anarchy are being spread in other cities. In Atlanta on Saturday evening, a black man apparently resisting arrest was shot and killed by a police officer. The incident occurred at a Wendy’s restaurant which was promptly set on fire by “protesters.” Before the smoke cleared, the officer was fired from the force and the police chief resigned. There’s no need to determine the facts or render justice where anarchy reigns.
In a much better example of how governments should react, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, warning protesters who apparently wanted to set up their own “CHAZ” near the state capital in Nashville, said that there will be no “CHAZs” in his state. Lee said, “… lawlessness, autonomous zones and violence will not be tolerated.”
Lee, needless to say, is a Republican. All of the others — mayors de Blasio and Durkan, Gov. Inslee and Lisa Bender, president of the Minneapolis City Council — are Democrats. They imagine some political benefit suiting their over-the-top liberalism in refusing to face up to reality.
Americans of every race and religion are entitled to live in peace and security under the rule of law and our Constitution. The governments of Seattle and Washington State are failing in their duty to enforce the law and protect their citizens. Minneapolis certainly and possibly New York City will soon follow.
There is an urgent need for action to restore order in Seattle. President Trump should give Inslee a 48-hour deadline for action promising federalization of the Washington State national guard and its use, under federal command, to restore order in the CHAZ quickly. But Trump has two problems that have to be solved before he can do so.
First, Trump would have to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 which provides an exception to the Posse Comitatus Act which otherwise bars the use of federal forces to enforce local law. After Trump’s appearance at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square across from the White House, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he opposed the invocation of the Insurrection Act because it was premature to do so.
The second problem is that both Inslee and Durkan have rejected federal action and told Trump to mind his own business. The president’s power under the Insurrection Act allows him to use federal troops, or state troops that are nationalized, to restore order if there is an insurrection against federal law. The law-abiding citizens of the CHAZ are being denied their Constitutional and statutory civil rights which should be enough to justify invocation of the Insurrection act, but the law is unclear. The CHAZ is violating state laws and unless Inslee requests federal troops to enforce those laws, which Inslee won’t do, Trump may be powerless to restore order in Seattle. Attorney General Barr should give the president his opinion on whether or not he can invoke the Insurrection Act.
If Barr gives the go-ahead and Trump seeks to invoke the Act, he will have to bring Esper into line with action in Seattle or fire him. Esper should make a televised statement saying that the time has come to restore order to Seattle and that he is authorizing nationalization of the Washington State national guard to do so. If Esper refuses to do so, he should be fired forthwith.
Trump is president of all Americans. He owes the citizens of Seattle — no matter how liberal they are — action to restore order and the rule of law in their city. They shouldn’t have to endure Durkan’s summer of love and violence.
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The American Spectator’s contributing editor Jed Babbin served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. He writes the “Loose Canons” column for TAS Online and often appears as a talking warhead on television and radio. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. He is also the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse Than You Think. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.
Photo “Capital Hill Autonomous Zone” by CHAZ CITY 206 CC4.0.