On immigration, riots, street violence, and liberty

by Karoli on April 28, 2010 · 144 comments

A commenter on my post about allowing evil to be called good has asked me to blog my outrage about Arizona’s new immigration law, Chicago’s violence, and threats to our liberty. Gladly.

A preface: I don’t believe violence is an answer. Ever. That means I don’t agree with violent responses no matter how angry a group is, and no matter what their cause or how noble their message. Violence destroys the message and the messenger, and captures many innocents in its wake.

Raising Arizona

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know how I feel about the attitude toward immigrants in this country. Some of the excuses for bigotry are pathetic, like Rep. Hunter’s claim that our national security depends on sealing our borders. He failed to note that no act of terrorism has been committed by illegal immigrants. On the contrary, the terrorist acts have been committed by people who slid right through the system. Legally. Or worse yet, by people born and raised right here in this country who could probably point their ancestry back to the Mayflower and beyond.

Even through that lens, this law strikes me as beyond absurd. The first time a cop profiles a wealthy Latino as an illegal immigrant the fur is going to fly and the gloves will come off in court, which is, of course, the goal of the measure’s proponents.

The thundering silence of so-called libertarians is astounding. Here is a law which clearly leans on constitutional rights, on equal protection rights and is one great big fourth amendment infringement from beginning to end, and yet, there’s nothing. No outcry from libertarians at all. Why not? Is liberty reserved for whites only? Is the silence one more claim of ‘exceptionalism’, this time based on nothing more than a “I know what it is when I see it even if I can’t describe it” kind of feeling? 1[see end for links to libertarian candidate's denunciation, via the comments]

After all, this is the same state that just made it legal to carry concealed weapons anywhere and everywhere in the name of ‘liberty’. Evidently asking brown people for their documents doesn’t rise to the level of liberty, but ironically, they can still put their hands on a gun. All I can say to Arizona is this: Be careful what you wish for. You might get it. And no, that’s no threat. It’s just an analysis of the unintended consequence of being a state where anyone can carry a concealed weapon but they might get stopped for a “document check” if they happen to look Mexican.

So Sad, my commenter, also asked me to comment on the violent, animalistic response to the new law. So…I went to look for reports of this violence. This is a real-time live blog of the protests leading up to Governor Brewer’s signing of the bill. About midway through there’s a video shot in real time. In the video, there is lots of shouting, lots of riot police, and yes, I do hear the words “f*cking racist” shouted from the pro-immigrant side. I also saw a piece of trash or plastic fly through the air but it’s unclear where it came from. It lands on the ground, ignored and obviously missing its target.

I also saw riot police standing around without much to do, I saw several big, burly guys on the immigrant side of things act to keep that group separate from those shouting back on the other side.

What I didn’t see was a riot. I didn’t see guns fired by anyone, and I was actually pretty impressed with all sides’ behavior. There were clear efforts to bait and provoke on both sides, but neither rose to the bait.

I ran a Google search on the terms “arizona riot” and the top hit was this post with two videos. One of them is the video I just commented on. The other one appears to be the same event, taped from a vantage point above.

Riot, defined

Via Dictionary.com:

  1. a noisy, violent public disorder caused by a group or crowd of persons, as by a crowd protesting against another group, a government policy, etc., in the streets.
  2. Law. a disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons acting together in a disrupting and tumultuous manner in carrying out their private purposes.
  3. violent or wild disorder or confusion.

The first one most closely resembles what the videos depict, except for this: I couldn’t see any violence. If that is considered a riot, then we really have to revisit how the tea parties are viewed in this country. I do note that a blogger dedicated to making a case that the left is violent has described the second video as showing “officers pelted with rocks and bottles.” I watched it twice. I saw plastic bottles, but didn’t see the rocks. You’d think there would have been arrests if there were rocks, after all.

On the other hand, Rep. Raul Grijalva had to close his offices in his district after receiving some rather disturbing death threats.

Police are stationed outside his Tucson office, according to a statement from spokesman Adam Sarvana.

Sarvana said the office received “some pretty scary calls,” including two from the same person, he said, “who threatened to go down there and blow everyone’s brains out then go to the border to shoot Mexicans.”

Grijalva staffer Ruben Reyes said the office has been flooded with calls all week about Senate Bill 1070. About 25 percent are “very racist” in nature, Reyes said, characterizing some as “telling that tortilla-eating wetback to go back to Mexico.”

My bottom line? I think this law is an abomination. I also think the courts are the place to sort it out, which is where it’s heading now.

Guarding against Chicago violence

Chicago is on fire, it seems. Contrary to So Sad’s contention, I have indeed heard reports of the call for the National Guard in Chicago, and when I hear them, it evokes memories of the days after the Rodney King verdict when LA burned and the tanks rolled down suburban Northridge streets. We lived in Northridge then, and as long as I live, I will never forget that sight, or the question in my mind about why the National Guard was sending tanks down Reseda Boulevard when the riots and looting were in downtown LA. Priorities, I guess.

So I did some reading, or at least went looking for some reading to do, and here’s how it plays for me: This whole National Guard thing is a stalking horse for a deeper, underlying gun debate (and possibly other issues, like race) playing out in Illinois. Here’s why I think so:

This very, very instructive and handy chart showing the crimes committed over a long, sustained period of time. Is there an increase? Yes. But let’s look at April 15th, the day where the chart spikes.

Now April 15th is a very, very interesting day. It was tax day. It was the day of the nationwide Tea Party protests. It was, in short, a day when anger at country and government was probably at its apex.

Scrolling through the crimes, I see three consecutive reports of “found property” at the airport (that’s code for “call out the DHS and bomb squad”), an “other weapons violation” at the airport, way too many arrests for possession of marijuana under 30 grams, a lot of petty crimes and a bad rash of burglaries with forcible entry. Of everything I saw, those burglaries were clearly the most disturbing pattern of them all.What made that day aberrant was the heightened security risk at the airport. Other than that, it was actually not that terrible a day for an urban center with a lot of activity. Certainly not something to call out the National Guard over. So what, exactly, is the spark fanning the flame?

A couple of things. One, I believe the lawmakers calling for the National Guard are trying to make a bigger point over budget issues. And two, there is definitely a deep and strong undercurrent of debate and stirring over gun control in Chicago.

From the AP:

The call by the lawmakers for the military to help Chicago police comes during the approach of summer, when the number of crimes often rises along with the temperature. It also follows a recent headline-grabbing night of violence when seven people were killed and more than a dozen others were injured in shootings.

Both lawmakers calling for the National Guard are Democrats. Their reasons?

“I want our city to be free of crime as much as possible and that’s what I’m shooting for,” said Rep. LaShawn Ford, who joined Rep. John Fritchey in making a public plea over the weekend for Gov. Pat Quinn to call out the troops.

I call bullshit. I know rampaging criminals with guns who kill 7 people in one night are nasty, ugly people. I know this from my own personal experience. I also know it’s not cause to call out the National Guard. However, calling for the calling of the National Guard is certain to raise attention, which it did. It also sparked a debate.

Here’s what I think the real issue is:

It seems to me that asking the National Guard to hit the streets might provide a short-term solution for Chicago, and the fact that city and state lawmakers are now focusing on street crime, which has been ignored for too long, is a good thing.

Only a far more strategic set of solutions, targeting drug dealing, street gangs and the availability of guns, is going to offer lasting reductions of crime in Chicago.

Yes, and starting with getting rid of the less than 30g of marijuana thing might free up police to deal with real issues. I see their containment of worse crimes as a real credit to Chicago law enforcement officers, who are dealing with angry people in an economy that hasn’t quite recovered yet.

Finally, when you read the articles I’ve linked and quoted, the subtext is quite clear. The Mayor and Police Superintendent believe stricter gun laws would ease the situation in Chicago. On the other hand, other residents of Chicago are petitioning the United States Supreme Court to overturn current gun laws.

At what price liberty? If the Supreme Court overturns the current gun laws in Chicago, will the crime rate increase or decrease? I think it will increase. I also think the 2nd amendment should be given the same respect as the 4th amendment, and for that reason, expect that the gun owners may prevail. The real question is whether the courts will give the Fourth amendment its proper weight and smack down Arizona’s new immigration law. I want to believe they will.

No health police. Sorry.

Finally, this observation is for commenter SoSad, who sparked this small pamphlet in the first place. SoSad closes with this:

Will you protest the outragous piece of legislation that will require us to show proof that we purchases health insurance as a citizen of this country? Come on Karoli, bring your voice of reason to this issue, your side is becoming more dangerous everyday. Just turn on the news.

The answer to the first question is clearly no, because, well…you won’t have to show proof of anything more than you do whenever you file a tax return proving, for example, that taxes were withheld from your paycheck, or that you have insurance on your car when you renew your registration.

There will not be health insurance police lurking in Denny’s waiting for you to pay your bill and produce your card because you look…uninsured.

There will not be health insurance police running your plates through the system to see if you have Aetna or United Health.

If you’re employed, a little box will be checked on your W-2. If you’re an individual policyholder, a little report will be sent just like your W-2 is now for you to attach to your tax return. And what if you decide it’s just not your deal to even accede to those small reportings? Pony up the $95 in 2016 and call it a day. In 2017, that might increase to $695, but again, it is all a personal choice.

Liberty is about choices. Choices to own guns or not own guns. Choices to have health insurance, or assume financial responsibility to society for not having it. Choices for women to make about their bodies and their lives. It isn’t conditional. You can’t argue for liberty except when it’s convenient to be authoritarian. Either the choice exists, or government takes it away. That’s as true of guns as it is of abortion, or education, or marriage. If individual liberty is a value, it has to be valued even when you disagree with it.

I hope that helps clear it up, SoSad.

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1via the comments: Some libertarians have spoken against Arizona’s law.

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