Where are the Police? The Real Reason Why Law Enforcement is Slow to Respond to Antifa Violence

“It’s not the fault of the police officers, who know how to do their jobs; it’s the fault of their leaders who won’t let them do it.”

I’ve heard people on the left and right criticizing the police for failing to stop Antifa from committing violence and property destruction during their demonstrations and supposed counter-demonstrations. Good analysts distinguish between the cops on the riot lines and the political bosses who issue flaccid orders. The distinction is important. People malign cops enough these days without having their supporters pile on.

If you are watching an Antifa protest on the news and the police are not responding to the violence, you are likely seeing the results of orders not to act given to police officers by local politicians, or sadly, even law enforcement leaders.

I know—I’ve been there many times. Being deployed during my shift or being held over after shift to man a riot line to protect our precinct from one of the many groups of Seattle or Portland leftist agitators became routine after the 1999 WTO riots. I recall watching as crimes occurred within our sight, but our orders mandated we could not leave our posts to go aid crime victims. Apparently, some city officials think it’s okay to sacrifice people to political correctness.

As disciplined paramilitary units, police officers understand how important maintaining the integrity of a skirmish (riot) line can be during a violent demonstration. So, they follow orders, no matter how frustrating or how stupid those orders seem to be. Cops have to trust that their leaders are making the correct decisions to ensure public safety. After all, the leaders have more information than the line officers with which to make competent decisions, right?

Too often, this is not the case. During after-action debriefs, officers learn that their instincts were correct, and the orders from the mayor, chief, or sheriff were wrong or negligent—or stupid. And who suffers? The victims of violence and property destruction as well as the cops’ reputation and standing in the community. “The cops did nothing to stop the violence.”

During Seattle’s infamous 2001 Mardi Gras riots, this type of poor decision-making, or worse, indecision by a mayor and police chief, resulted in the death of Kristopher Kime. Kime was a young man who attempted to help a woman being assaulted by thugs rampaging through the crowd. Officers had been given orders to stand by rather than to intervene in the violence.

Kime died from wounds suffered when a young criminal smashed him in the head with a skateboard. Two off-duty Seattle firefighters managed to evacuate the severely injured Kime from the crowd. They took him to a police car and then rushed him to the nearby trauma center, where he died. Were the mayor’s and police chief’s decisions (or non-decisions) a result of political concerns overruling public safety interests because the attackers were black and the victims primarily white? Evidence suggests this could have been the case.

Too often, this kind of politically biased decision-making is the reason the cops aren’t protecting victims of leftist thuggery. It’s not the fault of the police officers, who know how to do their jobs; it’s the fault of their leaders who won’t let them do it. This seems to be what’s happening with Antifa. For some bizarre political reason, this violent group of Marxist, free speech-haters (like Black Lives Matter) seems to be hands-off to many liberal leaders. I suppose if these leftist groups also hate President Trump, which they do, then who cares how they express that hate, especially if it’s against the right, right?

Unlike 9/11, I don’t remember where I was or what time it was when I first heard the term Antifa. But, I remember how the radio pundit I was listening to defined the group’s acronym: “AntiFirst Amendment.” Because I hadn’t heard the term before, I didn’t know he was being facetious. I thought: why would any group adopt such a disparaging name? And because the definition was consistent with the violent acts this group was committing against Americans’ free speech rights, I also thought that at least they’re being honest about what they call themselves.

The next time I heard the acronym, I learned Antifa, bizarrely, stands for AntiFascists. But based on Antifa’s fascist actions and the violent suppression of free speech, Anti-First Amendment is so much more accurate.

As a police officer, though retired, it still disgusts me when I see political leaders order cops not to restore order while people are being brutalized and their property vandalized.

Antifa has shown up at many so-called “right-wing” demonstrations, from the vile neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, where the radical group chanted “No cops! No KKK! No fascist USA!” to the truly peaceful Patriot Prayer group in San Francisco, a group comprising multi-racial, multi-ethnic members. Patriot Prayer couldn’t be further away from Nazis, the KKK, or other white nationalists. Yet the left intentionally conflates the disparate groups, lumping violent racists in with obviously non-violent, non-racist conservative groups. Does the media ever conflate violent leftists with peaceful protesters? No. With the left, reporters are always keen to distinguish between the “very few” violent agitators at a left-wing demonstration and the “mostly peaceful” protesters.

As a police officer, though retired, it still disgusts me when I see political leaders order cops not to restore order while people are being brutalized and their property vandalized. It goes against every cop’s instinct to protect the public against these vicious bullies—in this case, political bullies.

Joey Gibson’s case is a great example. He is a leader in the Patriot Prayer movement. They are a group of diverse people who get together to pray for peace to heal our divided nation. What did he get for his recent efforts in Berkeley? His group’s event, despite featuring diverse racial and ethnic speakers as well as a woman who calls herself a transgendered patriot, was pronounced a “white supremacist rally.” By whom? The honorable former speaker of the House and current House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-California). This is a clear slander against a group of patriotic Americans who have committed no violence at all and were the ones seen on video being assaulted by Antifa radicals. Under pressure, Leader Pelosi has since denounced Antifa’s violent tactics.

Tucker Carlson interviewed Joey Gibson following the incident where Antifa goons punched, clubbed, and pepper sprayed him and another group member. In setting up the interview, Carlson pointed out that the Los Angeles Times reported police arrested Gibson and another man for “running at police.” Carlson quipped that this was “one of the most misleading news headlines ever published.” Carlson also reported that “police told the San Francisco Chronical that the two were not arrested but instead were rescued from dangerous protesters.” Well, if the Los Angeles Times is going to be wrong, it may as well be as wrong as possible.

I appreciated Gibson’s comments about the cops to Tucker Carlson on his FOX News Channel show, Tucker Carlson Tonight: “We talked to quite a few police officers. Most police officers join the force because they want to help people out in these situations. Unfortunately, there’s people higher up who are not allowing them to do it. Trust me, they [cops] didn’t want to stand around and watch, okay? We have mayors all over California, and in this country, who are using the police forces for their own political gain.” Gibson’s statement perfectly encapsulates my point.

Could Gibson have been another Kris Kime, murdered by riotous thugs because politicians prevented the police from enforcing the law? Fortunately, not this time. But, if leftist city leaders continue to allow Antifa’s black-clad militias to riot, as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said during the Baltimore riots in 2015, “We also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.” With the tacit—and sometimes explicit—support of leftist politicians and the national media, surely the leftist militants, unchecked by police and given space to destroy, will eventually kill someone.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

Join the conversation!

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.

OpsLens Premium on CRTV.

Everywhere, at home or on the go.