Albert Pike, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Clarence Williams, Confederacy, Confederate monuments, D.C., D.C. Police, District of Columbia, Following Up, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, history wars, National Park Service, peaceful protests, Perry Stein, Peter Hermann, protests, Trump, U.S. Park Police, vandalism, Washington Post
There is so much shameful behavior by various government and law enforcement authorities reported in this morning’s Washington Post account of the illegal takedown of a statue of a Confederate general (Albert Pike) in the District of Columbia (D.C.) that it’s hard to know where to begin.
But let’s begin on a positive note: There was nothing shameful in the Post‘s own account. Quite the contrary: reporters Perry Stein, Clarence Williams, and Peter Hermann – and their editors – provided an unusual amount of useful information. Hopefully we’ll see much more journalism like that going forward.
In fact, the Post article taught me something that shows I made a significant mistake in a tweet yesterday. When I learned of the statue’s removal by a mob, I tweeted, “Let me get this straight: The #DC government is so #racist that #peacefulprotest-ers had no choice but to take the law into their own hands & tear down the #AlbertPike statue. Plus, DC cops stand by and watch. Totally disgraceful #vandalism & vandalism coddling. #murielbowser.” (Bowser is D.C.’s Mayor.)
The mistake has to do with jurisdiction. As the Post reported, the D.C. police noted that “The statue in question sits in a federal park and therefore is within the jurisdiction of National Park Service and the United States Park Police.” So the District’s government didn’t, as I implied, have the authority to remove the statue.
Yet although I apologize for the D.C. government reference, I still stand behind mob point (about the need always to follow lawful procedures for removing such monuments) and the D.C. police point. Unless everyone should applaud officers who stand by and do absolutely nothing when flagrant lawbreaking is not only within plain sight, but scarcely a block away? What if the D.C. police saw a murder being threatened in a federal park? (By the way, as a longtime District resident, I can tell you that the parks in which these monuments stand are mostly vestpocket-size parks, and aren’t watched or patrolled regularly by anyone at any time of day.)
Moreover, there’s evidence that the D.C. police were aware that something was wrong – and weren’t even positive that they lacked the authority to act. The Post quoted a National Park Service spokesman as claiming that “D.C. police had called U.S. Park Police dispatch to ask about jurisdiction. He said in an email that when Park Police officers arrived, ‘the statue was already down and on fire.’ The toppling of the statue is under investigation, he said. Litterst [the spokesman] did not address whether the Park Service thinks D.C. police should have intervened.”
Finally, if you believe, as I do, that monuments to traitors like Confederate generals have no place on public grounds, it’s clear that the federal government has been brain-dead on this issue (to put it kindly). But the Post account also reveals that this disgraceful neglect long predates the presidency of Donald Trump (who continues to oppose any changes in these statues’ placement or even renaming U.S. military bases named after such treasonous figures).
Specifically, “District officials have been trying to get the statue removed for several years. The D.C. Council petitioned the federal government to remove the statue in 1992.”
From then until Mr. Trump’s inauguration, four Presidents have served – including recent liberal and Mainstream Media darlings George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Why didn’t they remove the statue? Why haven’t they even commented on the matter? And why haven’t they been called on the carpet for their records on this matter, and for their silence?
But let’s close on a positive note, too. One question raised by this statue controversy – what to do with it – is pretty easily answered. Either stick it in a museum (with a full description provided of this minor Confederate figure) or throw it in the city or some federal dump.