San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar may want to take note. The City of Seattle is being sued for establishing a “de facto protest tax.”
Given Verber Salazar is now repurposing as opposed to re-visioning the office she was elected to by tossing out any teeth that the vehicle code or misdemeanor laws on the books may have by vowing to do everything in her power to make sure fines aren’t imposed, she may want to get at the forefront of another effort to make law enforcement less effective.
Five people have filed a lawsuit against Seattle asserting the city is impeding their civil rights via the cost of protective clothing and equipment.
The lawsuit contends police tactics used to disperse crowds that get unruly or fail to respond to lawful orders to disperse are undermining their civil rights to peacefully demonstrate. They contend it is unfair and a constitutionally questionable burden that they have to buy gas masks, helmets, boots (perhaps steel toed?), umbrellas, gloves, googles, and other protective gear because police may resort to using pepper spray and what they call “less lethal projectiles” as opposed to “non-lethal” projectiles.
They reference that they’ve been forced to do so in order to engage in six weeks of “peaceful” demonstrations. Obviously there are now various definitions constituting the concept of peaceful. But it is safe to say that means anyone that commits acts of vandalism or violence that agrees with them are being peaceful and police that do anything to stop anyone associated directly with protestors or using them as cover from closing down streets, refrain from smashing windows, defacing property, hurling projectiles and incendiary devices are not being peaceful.
To make sure San Joaquin County stays on the cutting edge, the DA should insist local police departments provide riot gear to protestors to assure their right to protest will be absolute and done in a manner that doesn’t subject them to injury should others that join their group explore their inner anarchism.
Connecting the direction our DA wants to go with fines with the lunacy in Seattle may seem a bit of a stretch if it wasn’t for the fact both actions are an assault on the glue that holds the fabrics of a civilized society together — law and order.
To be clear, we are not talking about the late Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago’s interpretation of law and order he foisted upon demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention or any action by police today that resemble the same mindset.
Nor is it law and order in the same vein as demonstrated on the namesake cluster of TV dramas.
It is law and order as defined by rules that are designed to regulate the interaction of people so we don’t disintegrate into endless chaos.
You need norms and standards re-enforced by laws adopted within a constitutional framework to assure 328 million people don’t simply start attacking other people and damaging property that is not theirs simply because they think the right to protest extends the right for them to be in a crowd that is getting out of control and not expect to be caught up in the fallout.
What we are doing now is seeing legislation by fiat by officials seemingly at virtually all levels of government deciding the governing structure isn’t moving fast enough or in the direction they want to see it go.
In a way it’s like the 10 years of terror that started 54 years ago in China that led to 2 million deaths and the virtual destruction of that country’s societal norms during the Cultural Revolution. Instead of a powerful dictator pulling the strings to spur non-stop mayhem to purify society in the vision of Chairman Mao, we have people in elected leadership rules instigating social upheaval to further the cause du jour.
This is playing out effectively in Seattle where you had the mayor embracing those took over a neighborhood to the point she pulled police presence that led to a quick snapshot at what defunding the police looks like: Two black youths shot to death, property damaged, and crime victims being attacked by mobs to allow thieves to walk away free without behind held accountable for their crimes.
Hopping on the defund the police bandwagon is exactly what Verber Salazar is doing with her crusade to make San Joaquin a sanctuary county for misdemeanor offenders and those that believe they don’t have to follow traffic laws.
Verber Salazar is channeling the philosophy behind the lawsuit filed in Seattle by making lawbreakers the victim.
Likely most of us could agree that some penalties for crimes are draconian and others are counterproductive. It is a conversation that needs to take place that in turn needs to be followed up with reworking laws and strategies aimed at reducing crime and out-of-proportion punishment.
The DA, however, in one fell swoop is declaring every law that is a misdemeanor or infraction that has penalties attached that must be seen as draconian due to the economic consequences of the pandemic so therefore must be essentially tossed out by her willful decision to press for essentially no penalties for illegal behavior that is a threat to public health and safety.
She is essentially indicting that what is unjust is the concept that we are a nation of laws and instead of a safe haven for hooligans to operate with impunity.
The fact Verber Salazar is willing to institute the equivalent of a no prosecute edict without having a working plan in place to correct unlawful behavior because of what she views as an undue burden on the poor based on the difficulty they have to pay for breaking the law not on a case-by-case reeks of class warfare.
There is a perception, right or wrong, that those that can easily splurge six figures on a lawyer to fight and/or reduce any consequences for their illegal behavior leverage their money to secure what is essentially special treatment.
The move by Verber Salazar to basically invalidate the application of a host of laws based on being poor without having an alternative in place for fines is also special treatment.
That leaves the shrinking Middle Class as the ones that will not benefit from their monetary status because they either don’t have enough or they have too much meaning they will be subjected to full prosecution for their offenses.
Verber Salazar should be commended in her efforts trying to assure law and order while pursuing justice in regards to homeless crime that is often committed just so the individual can survive.
But her latest venture regarding fines for traffic infractions and certain misdemeanors is restorative justice gone rogue.