Did Bill Barr Learn the Wrong Lesson from the L.A. Riots?

“if Barr—or Trump, Cotton, or anyone else—think active duty military played an important role in restoring order to Los Angeles, they’re misremembering history. In fact, the L.A. riots offer cautionary lessons about the limits and perils of using military force to restore order and protect lawful protest. Although the National Guard played a critical role in restoring and keeping the peace, the same can’t be said for active-duty Marines and soldiers.”

“The arrival of the guard was desperately anticipated in Los Angeles, where looting and fires spread overnight and left the city smoldering by daybreak on April 30. That morning, I waited outside the Los Angeles Coliseum, where guard units had deployed. But even as the day heated up, the guard troops remained frustratingly cabined inside their armories.

The trouble: Guard soldiers had made it to Los Angeles overnight, but devices to convert their automatic weapons into semiautomatics had not. When he learned of the holdup, Wilson ordered the guard soldiers to hit the streets with one bullet each, and by late afternoon, about 24 hours after violence first erupted, the guard finally began deploying from Exposition Park, home of the Coliseum.

One guardsman marched across the street to where I was standing, and as he and I took in the scene, a man pulled up in his pickup truck and began videotaping the melee. A rioter casually walked over, shot the man in the arm and grabbed his camera. Spotting the guard soldier, the shooter fled; the victim lived.

By the time guard units were fully at work, more than 25 people had died, nearly 600 were wounded and roughly 1,000 fires were burning or had burned.The guard units were applauded, sometimes literally, as they made their way to ravaged sections of the city. I watched looters thumb their noses at police and then, moments later, melt away when they spotted guard soldiers rolling up to the scene; something about the military’s presence was both intimidating and soothing. In neighborhood after neighborhood, the arrival of the guard meant the diminishment of violence. “They were reassuring to the people who wanted their presence,” Wilson said.”

“But by the time soldiers and Marines were in position, the violence was already subsiding, so their mission was muddied from the start: Authorized to “restore law and order,” they were not empowered to “maintain law and order.” Some military leaders concluded that their authorization thus was no longer valid.”

“In some cases, the cultures and practices of police and soldiers clashed, with dangerous implications. When one pair of LAPD officers, for instance, was preparing to enter a home in response to a report of a domestic dispute, the officers were accompanied by a contingent of Marines. The Marines held back as the officers approached the front door and were greeted with a blast of birdshot. The officers dropped to the ground and one called out, “cover me,” thinking the Marines would point their weapons at the house and be alert for any additional threat. Instead, the Marines opened fire, pummeling the home and its occupants, which included children, with more than 200 rounds. Amazingly, no one was hurt.”

“The Los Angeles riots were extraordinarily violent, but mercifully short-lived, in large measure because of the decisive actions taken by Wilson. They do not, however, stand for the principle that active duty military are the most effective means of suppressing urban violence. In Los Angeles, police and local leadership failed at the outset, to be rescued by state coordination and the National Guard. The Army and Marines came too late to make a difference but just in time to sow confusion and concern.

The history in Los Angeles suggests that solid coordination between the state and federal governments, along with decisive use of the National Guard, can save lives and protect property. It argues against employment of active-duty forces, certainly without consultation and consent of the states. In the current crisis”


https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/06/09/william-barr-los-angeles-riots-307446

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