The forces of law and order seem to be in a state of retreat in much of the US, and I got a firsthand look at that recently in Palo Alto, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. There was a live debate at City Hall between nine congressional candidates competing for an open seat in the US House of Representatives. There was also a group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators determined to make their presence felt.
They held a loud rally just outside of City Hall prior to the debate. There were a few dozen of them, shouting slogans such as “cease-fire now,” “free Palestine” and “stop the US war machine”. They had no trouble gaining admittance to the debate with their flags and banners, despite numerous posted signs saying that political banners were prohibited inside the City Council Chamber. They were quiet for about the first hour and a half of the two hour debate, but then, seemingly on cue, they started shouting their slogans and refused to stop, which made it impossible to continue the debate.
There was also a sizable pro-Israel contingent, many of whom came in order to counter the protestors. A few were draped in Israeli flags, and some shouted back at the protestors, but that didn’t do anything to quiet the room so the debate could continue. One protestor jumped on a table and started waving a large Palestinian flag as other protestors continued to wave their banners and drown out the debaters.
There were no police in sight, even though there was a police facility directly adjoining the Council Chamber where the debate took place. I later learned that the police policy was to intervene only if there was violence or a threat to public safety, but if the protestors were only shouting down the speakers and preventing the debate from taking place, the police would do nothing.
After about 10 minutes, the noise subsided as the protestors simply got tired of yelling. There was then an attempt to restart the debate, but every time someone said something the protesters didn’t like, they would start booing and jeering. Finally, the moderator said it was time for the candidates to give their closing statements, but they never got to give them, because the protesters started screaming again, and that pretty much ended the evening. As people left, the protestors lined up along the exit path so that all the attendees had to walk past a gauntlet of Palestinian flags and banners.
The most disturbing thing to me was that these people could disrupt an important public event in the seat of government itself, and prevent congressional candidates from being heard, with absolutely no fear of consequences.
Apparently, the standard police policy in many cities, especially liberal-run cities, is to always try to de-escalate every confrontation by minimizing police presence as much as possible. This may be due to the massive incitement campaign waged against police in recent years, which has made many officers afraid to enforce the law, thinking that if they try to arrest someone, and they resist, and an injury results, that officer could be sued, fired, or even sent to prison.
De-escalation can work only when neither party really wants a confrontation, and both parties are willing to de-escalate. But if one party is aggressively pushing its agenda, trying to de-escalate the situation is equivalent to appeasement, and it just guarantees that the same people will come back again, more aggressive and belligerent than before.
Also important to note is that this pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel movement is part of a much larger anti-American revolutionary movement that seeks to exacerbate social grievances to the point of ultimately overturning the existing system of governance and replacing it with something profoundly alien to the values America was built upon. Unless we recognize the danger and take strong countermeasures soon, America’s future may be very bleak.