To be clear: I have absolutely no sympathy for the selfish so-called "protestors" who are being irresponsibly cheered on by the President to "re-open the economy" and endanger millions of American lives. While I can understand economic stresses and concerns about an overreaching government, I simply cannot abide by a movement that was literally organized by nihilistic white nationalists bankrolled by greedy right-wing donors who want other people to die in order to boost a bunch of inherently hollow economic statistics that cannot hold any meaning without human life.
That being said, the Raleigh Police response to the "ReOpen North Carolina" protest was also painfully ridiculous.
"Protesting is a non-essential activity." That's what the police said.
Humans are complex beings, and we are capable of holding more than two thoughts in our minds at once. That's how I'm able to recognize that these protestors were, at best, the unwitting patsies of a bigoted death cult — while also acknowledging that a police department deeming protest as "non-essential" is, at best, dumb, and at worst, utterly horrifying.
Even if one is to agree that these protestors should have been arrested, this is a terrible way to justify that action. They could have just as easily written this off retroactively as reckless endangerment, or simply left it as a public safety violation. (Not that police in America ever need a reason to justify arrests — although these protestors were largely white, which does add some complications.)
But the fact that a police officer thought to explain away these actions by insisting that the act of protest is non-essential? That unintentionally reveals a lot about their headspace. It's way so many police departments try to track people at protests to retroactively punish protestors as "Antifa", why they shut off their bodycams as they assault protestors for being "disrespectful" despite a glaring lack of physical threat, or otherwise just threaten to make things up to justify their actions.
Protests are deemed "non-essential" by police because there are unfortunately far too many police officers who do not view their job as actually uploading the law. Rather, they see their duty to uphold the social order, no matter how unjust it is. The mere notion of a protest conflicts with that order, and thus, of course a cop would immediately jump to call it non-essential, regardless of the truth.
(And yes, there is the added irony that, in any other circumstance, these police officers would likely be getting paid overtime to "keep the peace" at a Neo-Nazi rally.)
The Raleigh Police Department did try to backpedal this stupid tweet … kind of.
In these unprecedented times and unusual circumstances, both the Governor and the County have declared a state of emergency. Under these current and temporary declarations, protesting is not listed as an essential function.
The Wake County District Attorney is the individual who decides charging language for failure to adhere to the Governor’s Orders and the Wake County Proclamation, when charging is appropriate, and what charges individuals may face for violating either one of these orders. However, as a law enforcement agency, the Raleigh Police Department is bound to carry out the regulations stipulated in the Executive Order and the Wake County Proclamation.
Fact check: Did police violate constitutional rights at ‘Reopen NC’ protest in Raleigh? [Will Doran / Raleigh News & Observer]
Image: Becker1999/Flickr (CC 2.0)