Rightwing idiots cheer illegal bail for protesters

This article contains news with liberal commentary.

Police killed a Latino man brandishing a knife in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on Sunday, September 13, 2020. That night a crowd of protesters gathered outside a police station and, according to police,

“piled street signs, trash cans, a metal dumpster, a metal bike rack, pieces of plywood and a wooden pallet at the intersection of N. Prince St. and W. Chestnut St. … filled the dumpster with additional trash bags, as well as the wood, and set the contents on fire.”

and also

“damaged a county vehicle, threw bricks at the station and tossed bottles, rocks, bricks and road barricades at officers,”

according to the cops, who broke up the protest with “pepper spray and chemical agents” (story here; watch video below).

(Article continues after video)

And made arrests. A dozen people were charged with “conspiracy to commit arson, riot, failure to disperse, institutional vandalism and disorderly conduct,” and a local magistrate judge set their bail at $1 million each, according to NBC News (story here).

Meanwhile, the police chief said the cop who shot the man can receive “counseling,” according to a local news source (here).

The rightwing blogosphere went nuts. A brief search would yield countless examples, but two will suffice:

“Judge in Lancaster, PA is Teaching Spoiled Rioters a Lesson With this Brilliant, Savage Move,” bleated Wayne Dupree, a Baltimore-based rightwing radio talk show host. He continues,

“Not every judge is a liberal activist pushing a leftist political agenda. Some of them still have integrity and are more interested in upholding the law than making a political statement. Not every judge is a liberal activist pushing a leftist political agenda. Some of them still have integrity and are more interested in upholding the law than making a political statement. And thankfully, one of those judges happens to be in Lancaster, PA and he’s throwing the book at a bunch of rioters. He is teaching these spoiled, clueless kids a lesson by setting their bail at $1 million each in.”

(Source here.) And then there’s Red State, which you’ve probably heard of, where a reader posted the following comment:

“This, my dear readers, is how it’s done. Y’all paying attention, Portland?”

(Source here.)

Well, no, that’s not how it’s done; at least, not by the laws of this country, under which:

  • Suspects are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.
  • “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” — 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m against rioting, throwing stuff at police, vandalism, and setting dumpster fires. We’ve gotta have rule of law in this country. Which is my point.

In a society governed by rule of law, words like “savage” have no place in discussions of bail or any other facets of the criminal justice system. Nor is bail used to punish, or even deter, conduct. In America, under our legal system, bail is imposed to ensure defendants will show up in court, not as retribution or punishment.

Suspects generally are entitled to bail. There are a few instances where judges set very high bail (e.g., $1 million) or order defendants held without bail, but this case isn’t one of those. Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor immediately called the bail “unconstitutional” (story here). The ACLU condemned it as “unconstitutional” and an “abuse of power” (story here; read their press release here).

In addition, charges and bail must be proportional to the alleged crimes. It’s common in the U.S. for cops to pile on charges, and prosecutors to overcharge, but when that practice is taken too far it’s no longer questionable, it’s unconstitutional. Based on what I’ve read in the news and saw in videos, the charging in this case appears to be overdone. This is relevant to the bail amount, because if the charges are excessive, then the justification for high bail also disappears.

This is apart from the fact we don’t know if the police arrested perpetrators or just scooped up anyone they could grab. The early indications point to the latter. A woman who says she was just there as a medic is among those arrested and hit with those charges. In the video below, a bystander says, “Yeah, they’re arresting everyone.” None of the charges will stick unless they can connect specific criminal acts to the individuals who committed them.

The magistrate, at least, can offer a half-baked argument that he’s trying to protect the community by keeping rioters off the streets. His bail order won’t stand anyway, but at least he can tell his fellow lawyers that he abused his authority with good intentions. But while he may be able to find some refuge in that half-assed excuse, those posting “teach ’em a lesson” and “this is how it’s done” have no rationale for their intemperate outbursts other than the obvious fact they’re unschooled idiots. 

May their celebrations of this trashing of constitutional rights be short-lived. Not because the accused rioters deserve our sympathy, but because they’re entitled to their rights. If they don’t have rights, none of us do.

What’s most disturbing about all this is that morons who think being asked to wear a mask in public so they don’t infect strangers is “tyranny” can turn around and go all-in for the idea of inflicting summary justice on people who set dumpster fires because they think being summarily executed by police is tyranny. This is a gulf in ideas that can’t be bridged by appeals to consistency. It’s nothing more than the law of the jungle. And we’ve already seen in Kenosha, Portland, Charlottesville, and other places what that turns into.

Is that really the kind of society they want to live in?

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0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Mark Adams #

    The question is really whether the bail is excessive. Arson usually will get an arsonist hit with a high bail. Even a thousand dollar bail might have been enough for the magistrate to make his point, but with arson $10,000 or $50,000 certainly would not be excessive and the defendants may or may not be able to come up with bail. Do they have rich friends to bail them out? As long as they show up in court their friends will get the bail back.

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    The constitutional issue is whether $1,000,000 bail is excessive, not whether $10,000 or $50,000 bail is excessive.

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