Hu Zexi, People’s Daily
In recent years, racial discrimination, gun violence, and political polarization in the U.S. have led to massive demonstrations and even street violence in some cases. If demonstrations break the legal bottom line, the U.S. law enforcement departments will surely take tough measures to quell the violence.
On June 29, far-right extremists and left-wing activists took to the streets for a standoff in Portland, Oregon. Shortly after the demonstration started, projections began to appear.
After that, the law enforcement department revoked the permit for the demonstration and declared the situation a riot. Flash bombs and rubber bullets were used to bring the standoff to a close and perpetrators were arrested.
The law enforcement effort was widely supported by local politicians and the high efficiency of the police officers to control violence was applauded by the local community. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pointed out that whoever resorts to violence under the guise of freedom of expression is unwelcome in the city.
The U.S. law enforcement officers won’t tolerate violent protesters, not to mention that the protesters may challenge or endanger the security of the police officers.
James Dudley at San Francisco State University is a 32-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department where he retired as deputy chief of the Patrol Bureau.
Dudley had dealt with multiple cases of social unrest. He told People’s Daily that when protests become violent activities and protesters damage public property, the police officers may consider use force. As he sees it, “arson and attacks by protesters should not be tolerated in any country, and offenders should be arrested and removed”.
Henry Chang-Yu Lee was the former director of the Connecticut State Police. He had dealt with some most important cases in the country, including the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and the 9/11 attacks. According to Lee, the U.S. local police agencies usually deal with small-scale violent demonstrations, first by taking evidence pictures and then arresting the offenders.
For large-scale violent protests, the state police will deploy fire fighting trucks to disperse the protesters and explosion-proof vehicles to separate protesters and pedestrians, and arrest the heads of the protesters or those who attack the police.
If the demonstrations prove to be bigger and the situations are more severe, the national guards will take such actions as firing smoke bombs and tear gas, declaring a state of emergency and imposing a curfew.
The strong and tough measures taken by the U.S. government to quell massive riots are still remembered by many Americans even until today.
In 1992, the largest riot in the U. S. in the 20th century broke out in Los Angeles. To quell the riot, the then U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush even dispatched the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division. Statistics show that about 12,000 people were arrested.
In 2011, the Occupy Wall Street campaign swept across the U.S., and law enforcement agencies were highly vigilant. During the clearance of the campaign at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, the center of the movement, New York police dispatched thousands of police officers and arrested 200 protesters who refused to cooperate.
In 2014, a major racial riot took place in Ferguson, Missouri. The governor of the state declared a state of emergency and dispatched a large number of law enforcement officers and heavy equipment such as armored vehicles to suppress the riot.
In 2015, racial riots broke out again in Baltimore, Maryland. The governor of the state also declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew, and mobilized thousands of National Guard members to quell the riots.
The U.S. public does not need to worry about the lack of law enforcement. On the contrary, excessive law enforcement and violent law enforcement have been a major problem facing American society for a long time.
According to data released by the FBI in 2017, U.S. law enforcement agencies approved more than 10 million arrests (excluding arresting of traffic violators) in 2016, and an average of 3,298.5 people per 100, 000 residents were arrested. According to The Washington Post, U.S. police shot and killed 998 people in 2018 alone.
Why do American politicians, who will never question law enforcement in their own country, now groundlessly accuse law enforcement in other parts of the world, notably Hong Kong? Some experts said that this fully exposed the double standards of American politicians.
After violent clashes between far-right and radical left groups in Portland this summer, Ted Cruz, a senior conservative politician and Senator from Texas, filed a resolution with another Senator, expressing severe condemnation against violence and calling for classification of far-left Antifa groups who covered their faces with black masks or bandanas as a domestic terrorist organization.
Faced with repeated acts of violence by Antifa groups, many U.S. law enforcement officials have demanded legislation to ban the public from wearing masks to participate in demonstrations. In fact, various versions of the “anti-mask laws” have long been implemented in many states and counties in the U.S.
However, when dangerous people in regions of other countries took to the streets to commit crimes, some American politicians took the opposite position. Not long ago, when the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government started to formulate an anti-mask law, many people in the U.S. criticized the move, saying willfully that it would damage Hong Kong’s “democracy “.
Robert Lawrence Kuhn, chairman of the Kuhn Foundation of the U.S., told People’s Daily that no nation can allow violence to disrupt its society and undermine its economy, rule of law is the basis of national life, economic development, and civil society, and police have the responsibility to contain violence and restrain lawbreakers.
In Kuhn’s view, Hong Kong police have generally exercised restraint over the past few months, while some extreme demonstrators have repeatedly attempted to provoke the police, but certain American politicians still chose to criticize the Hong Kong police. What lies behind this is their deep-seated frustration at China’s remarkable rise and downright political opportunism, which is a deeper motive they might not state.