Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

Mob opinion

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Reading the coverage and comments on the local protests in this paper, I have noticed some pretty fanciful interpretations by left-wing partisans on what the "law" is. Having practiced law for more than 40 years, and being insufferably pedantic, allow me to correct some of these curious notions.

First, the law does not punish anything just because it pisses you off. Sorry, but something must be specifically proscribed in writing by the proper government entity to be punished. For example, I find Hillary Clinton and Adam Schiff insufferable, and yet, they continue to walk about freely and to opine incessantly. Reality TV and the Kardashians are allowed to infect the popular culture. TV pharmaceutical hucksters are permitted to relentlessly beguile the afflicted with ads for new and pricy nostrums promising not just relief, but an idyllic life. But the law provides me with no relief from these things, despite their assaults on my emotional well-being.

Some are in a snit because the police violated the perceived "right" of protesters to block the freeway and to vandalize the cars of motorists who try to bypass them. Some are in a lather because law enforcement declined to arrest armed men guarding a store during a protest march. And, there was even a demand that local law enforcement officials be arrested and prosecuted for the newly contrived "felony" of "upholding and perpetuating institutional racism." You'll be disappointed to learn that the law doesn't back you up on these things.

Tianna Arata was arrested for inciting and leading protesters onto the freeway to block it, resulting in violence and danger to the public, acts in violations of specific portions of the vehicle and penal codes. Despite the opinions of activists, there is no "right" to block a freeway. Elias Bautista was arrested for the crime of vandalizing a car trying to avoid the blockade. There is nothing in the law excusing this conduct just because a person feels really, really strongly about their cause.

Further, a motorist seeking to avoid becoming entrapped in a mob has no legal duty to obey traffic diktats by self-appointed "traffic cops" in the mob. Many of us who are old enough to have watched live on TV during the LA riots as Reginald Denny's truck was blocked, and he was dragged out of it and had his head caved in with large chucks of concrete. Recently in Portland, a mob of protesters dragged a motorist out of his car, beating and kicking him while helpless on the ground. Shots have been fired at "disobedient" motorists. Most folks can understand why a person might be anxious to escape a mob

While you might dismiss the blocking of motorists to be merely a permissible "inconvenience," consider this: Would you support pro-life demonstrators being allowed to block access to an abortion clinic, because they, too, feel strongly about exercising their First Amendment rights and expressing their opposition?

And, despite opinions of several commentators, the police are under no legal obligation to immediately read anyone their Fifth Amendment rights. That is just TV. The reading of rights is only necessary in case you wish to use a defendant's statements against them.

Standing on a rooftop with guns during a protest march is not illegal, no matter how much it may have offended you, and made you "feel unsafe." The law is clear that someone may possess guns on their private property to protect it. And, in view of the fact that protests in other locations have devolved into arson, looting, and murder, most of us can certainly understand why a merchant might think it prudent.

An aside to you kids: The fact that something may make you subjectively feel "unsafe" does not give you a veto over that activity, no matter what your indulgent school teachers and parents may have told you. The law does not guarantee you a "safe space" from dissenting opinions and from others exercising their rights.

Likewise, even a left-wing lawyer will tell you that there is no law criminalizing "upholding and perpetuating institutional racism," no matter how much the social justice warriors wish it otherwise. What does that even mean, precisely? Sorry, but if you want to lock up your political opposition, you'll have to do better than just flinging vague rhetoric and jargon.

And speaking of "institutional racism," I have yet to hear anyone delineate any specific acts and practices performed locally which they feel constitute "institutional racism." Slogans won't do. A core principle of criminal law is that a law must be sufficiently precise to identify the specific behavior that is prohibited. Specifically, what acts are local law enforcement engaging that are racist and should be barred? What makes them "racist"?

If you activists insist on citing the law to support your cause, you may want to learn it first. Your hysterical rhetoric may work up the crowd at your political pep rallies, but it is unlikely to have much influence on the responsible people who actually run things. Δ

John Donegan is a retired attorney in Pismo Beach who had lots of legal certitude before law school and experience beat it out of him. Write a response for publication and send it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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