Rand Paul, BLM and DC’s street harassment laws

29 August 2020

6:16 AM

29 August 2020

6:16 AM

Over the past week, Washington, DC has turned into a truly dystopian nightmare. Diners at several area restaurants, including the famous Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown, were accosted by a Black Lives Matter mob that bullied them into raising their fists in solidarity with the movement. Restaurant patrons who refused to comply faced further verbal abuse and harassment. The trend continued outside the White House on Thursday night. Attendees of President Trump’s acceptance speech during the Republican National Convention were thrown to the wolves as they left the event, and were chased and screamed at as they made their way back to their hotels. Kentucky senator Rand Paul and his wife Kelly received some of the most aggressive harassment. Police officers formed a human barricade to protect them from the protesters, who repeatedly shoved the officers and threatened the senator.

Rand Paul just got chased by a crowd back to his hotel, after leaving the White House from Trump’s Republican Party Nomination #DC #DCProtests

— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) August 28, 2020

‘I truly believe this with every fiber of my being, had they gotten at us they would have gotten us to the ground, we might not have been killed, might just have been injured by being kicked in the head, or kicked in the stomach until we were senseless,’ Paul said during a Fox News interview recounting the incident.

Of course, you have to question the efficacy of a movement that requires building ‘support’ through intimidation and coercion. Those diners are only going to demonstrate support as long as they feel their safety is at stake. BLM’s behavior is a surefire way to build resentment among people who otherwise may be sympathetic to their cause.

The irony in Sen. Paul’s case, of course, is that he has been one of the loudest voices for police reform. In June, he introduced the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, legislation that would prohibit police from serving no-knock warrants. The video of the mob chanting ‘say her name’ at the senator should be a good lesson for Republicans. Trying to reason with a group that hates you and is motivated by fear and anger is useless. The White House and other Republicans who desperately insist they are doing what the mob wants are playing the same stupid game as the group of white men shouting ‘we’re on your side!’ as rioters threw rocks through their windows.

Another disturbing element of the Sen. Paul incident is the reaction from the media, which has been shockingly complicit in the violent protests rocking the country. The Associated Press attempted to gaslight the senator, disputing his version of events by writing, ‘Sen. Paul complains about “angry mob” encounter after RNC’. Aaron Rupar, a journalist with Vox, accused Paul of being a snowflake: ‘There is video of the incident and nobody laid a finger on Rand. These guys think it should be illegal to yell at them.’

Paul was likely not touched, of course, because police officers created a shield around him and bore the brunt of the physical assault. Rupar also missed that, according to multiple DC laws, what the mob did is illegal.

DC passed a first of its kind law in 2018 making street harassment illegal. Its intent was to protect women from catcalling and other forms of harassment in public areas, but it applies to all protected categories under the DC Human Rights Act, which includes political affiliation. The law defines street harassment as ‘any disrespectful, offensive, or threatening statements, gestures, or other conduct directed at an individual in a high-risk area without the individual’s consent and based on the individual’s actual or perceived protected trait identified in the DC Human Rights Act of 1977.’

It is also illegal in DC under disturbing the peace laws to ‘crowd, obstruct, or incommode’ the use of any public street or sidewalk, particularly after they are ‘instructed by a law enforcement officer to cease the crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.’ The mob’s behavior could also be covered under disorderly conduct laws, which make it illegal to ‘intentionally or recklessly act in such a manner as to cause another person to be in reasonable fear that a person or property in a person’s immediate possession is likely to be harmed or taken’, to ‘incite or provoke violence’, to ‘direct abusive or offensive language or gestures at another person…in a manner likely to provoke immediate physical retaliation’, to ‘engage in loud, threatening, or abusive language, or disruptive conduct with the intent and effect of impeding or disrupting the lawful use of a public conveyance’, or to interfere with someone in a public space by ‘jostling’ them or unnecessarily crowding them. Is that enough for Aaron Rupar?

We shouldn’t be surprised, however, that journalists are excusing this behavior. CNN and MSNBC have both tried to convince us that our own eyes are lying to us, calling riots and protests ‘mostly peaceful’ as they stand in front of burning buildings. The Nation and other outlets excused or outright supported looting and the destruction of businesses.

The media has accused the RNC of being ‘dark’ and using fear as a motivator when speakers call out violence and warn about what will happen if communities successfully defund the police. Is it really fear-mongering, though, if their concerns are based in reality?

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