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Friday, February 26, 2021

CHAZ or CHOP, anarchy is anarchy by any name

At its extreme, the defund the police movement is a welcome embrace of anarchy. Don’t take my word for it. Just look at the six blocks in downtown Seattle that the police and local government have ceded to protesters, where two shootings over the weekend left one person dead and two others injured.

The abandoned area, known as CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone) or CHOP (Capitol Hill Organized Protest), is now under mob rule — an island on American soil where constitutional rights and state and local laws don’t apply.

Earlier this month, a small group of individuals carrying American flags showed up to voice their opposition to this so-called “experiment.” They were quickly shouted down, stripped of their flags, and kicked out by the occupiers. The episode made it abundantly clear that only those who agree with the CHAZ occupiers are welcome and that First Amendment rights aren’t guaranteed by the mob.

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When the rule of law isn’t upheld, the very fabric of our communities begins to disintegrate. That’s why it’s critical for justice to be served for those responsible for the death of George Floyd, as well as any other police officers who betray the laws they have sworn to uphold. Racism, in all of its ugly forms, is itself a violation of our rule of law. In the wise words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Fixing the problems laid bare in the wake of Floyd’s death will involve improving accountability, transparency, and police training — all steps that strengthen rather than weaken the rule of law.

The lawless streets in Seattle represent a move in the exact opposite direction.

Like any neighborhood, the area commandeered by radical protesters in Seattle is made up of small businesses and residences. When local leaders and the police fail to enforce the laws, the rights of these property owners aren’t just violated — they’re effectively erased. If mobs are allowed to take over neighborhoods in cities across the country with immunity, if the local authorities aren’t willing to protect individuals’ rights, why should anyone invest in a restaurant or store?

Even worse than the violations of property rights in a lawless society are the personal dangers encountered by the most vulnerable. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of increased incidents of domestic violence and child abuse are widespread. Are we supposed to believe physical harm to women and children simply doesn’t or won’t exist under mob rule? That’s ridiculous. It’s unacceptable and cruel to deny police assistance to a woman or child under attack or otherwise in need.

Liberals continue to dismiss these criticisms as made-up, conservative exaggerations. At the same time, elected Democratic leaders have been silent on where they draw the line on upholding the rule of law. With President Trump calling for law and order, their knee-jerk opposition to anything he says is causing many liberal mayors and governors to either explicitly or implicitly embrace the anarchy.

Liberal leaders have put themselves in a box where any level of support for police officers, the rule of law, or even the cartoon Paw Patrol, is somehow an endorsement of the minority of law enforcement officers who have violated the public trust.

In these highly polarized political times, it’s difficult to find common ground on anything. We should start by agreeing that, without the rule of law and its fair enforcement, America is no country at all. Only after we agree on that essential foundation can we begin the more difficult process of building upon it with the laws necessary to guide our country’s path forward to a more just and equal future.

Congressman Ken Calvert represents California’s 42nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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