Our View: You know where this road leads
The path we’re on leads to violence.
Anyone should be able to see the pattern that’s emerged over the past couple of weeks. A man is accused of breaking windows at Grass Valley Police Department headquarters. That’s followed by vandalism to a downtown Grass Valley business, and then by accusations a man fired an Airsoft gun at attendees to a Back the Blue rally. Then, the next day, Black Lives Matter protesters are accosted on Broad Street in Nevada City. Angry men blocking the road, getting in the protesters’ faces, throwing punches.
Cap that off with another violent protest in Grass Valley that put the man accused in the police department vandalism back behind bars.
You don’t need a crystal ball to see what happens next.
The hand-wringing on Facebook over these acts is expected. The various sides deplore the violence, emphasizing that their group had nothing to do with it.
Law enforcement and local government issued their own statements, vigorously denouncing the acts. Nevada City Police Chief Chad Ellis said he was “appalled” and “disappointed.”
Words words words — meaningless without action behind them.
Grass Valley police used a cell phone video, along with downtown surveillance cameras, to identify and ultimately arrest the suspect in the Airsoft shooting. The shooting happened around 7 p.m. Aug. 8. The suspect was in custody before midnight.
You’ve likely seen the videos taken of the Sunday altercations in downtown Nevada City. To those who have seen them, there should be no question about the violence committed by the counter-protesters.
Probable cause — a low legal bar — strikes the viewer in the face when watching these videos. The words “appalled” and “disappointed” issued by Ellis should be replaced by “We will arrest the perpetrators of these crimes.”
Friday afternoon, they did. Ellis said police arrested a man he described as “one of the primary aggressors.” More arrests are expected.
To that we say, keep them coming.
This community is running, not walking, down a path toward violence. Our law enforcement and local leaders can issue all the statements they want. Without action backing them up, their words have no value.
We’re done with thoughts and prayers. Step up, or get out of the way.
What’s really appalling, really disappointing, is watching our community transform into this twisted version of itself. For years Nevada City has been an oddity — a little liberal enclave in the large conservative North State. And everyone here pretty much got along, regardless of politics.
Our local government meetings regularly had lines of engaged citizens wanting to express their opinions. We have a seemingly endless array of nonprofits where we can volunteer.
And it didn’t matter what your personal politics were. You volunteered. You spoke your mind. And maybe someone yelled at an elected official during a meeting. That’s as far as it went.
It never devolved into someone shooting an Airsoft rifle into a crowd. Or the disgusting caricature on view this past Sunday. Or the violence seen Wednesday in the Glenbrook Basin.
For a moment, wipe away the labels and groups for the people involved in these rallies and protests. Remove the tribalism and politics, and what remains is people who either obey the law or break it.
The time for spontaneous rallies with no government oversight is over. Local authorities must step in and enforce a permitting process for gatherings that exceed a certain number of people. No permit, no rally, no exceptions. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, and there’s no expectation you should get to stymie traffic and tie up law enforcement with no prior notice.
As for the violence, that time never should have arrived. Our leaders and law enforcement must ensure permitted rallies remain peaceful, and vigorously prosecute anyone who violates the law.
We know where this path goes. Now is the time to change direction, before we stumble and fall.
The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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