What’s happening in Lancaster, Pennsylvania right now is a perfect example of how the protests and riots that have rocked many American cities over the past few months create their own ecosystem of outrage and a self-perpetuating cycle of perceived injustice and imagined victimhood with every response by authorities to stop the destruction. Unfortunately, this time around the agitators are getting an assist from a Lancaster judge, who’s liable to turn those arrested for rioting into martyrs for the cause.
Across the country, far too many of these acts of mob violence have taken place under false pretenses. In the case of 27-year old Ricardo Munoz, who was shot by a Lancaster police officer as the man ran at him with a knife, the first rumors were those of a 15-year old boy with autism who’d been shot and killed by police after a family member called authorities for a wellness check. By the time police were able to release body camera footage the following day, riots in Lancaster had already caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage, including to the local police department.
The release of the body cam footage should have put an end to the protests, because it shows in crystal clear clarity that Munoz posed an immediate threat to the officer’s life. Instead, the protests continued on Monday and Tuesday night, though they appeared to be dying down a bit on Tuesday, when only a few arrests were made.
Don’t be surprised if the protests ramp up once again however. Since the shooting of Munoz appears to be clearly justified, the Left has to find a new reason to be angry at authorities in Lancaster, and they’ve decided that the $1-million bail for several defendants arrested during the riots is the next justification to get their troops fired up. The ACLU has weighed in, calling the bail “exorbitantly high,” and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman declared the million-dollar bond “blatantly unconstitutional.”
“Arson and riot are violent acts, and offenses this office takes very seriously,” the district attorney’s office said Wednesday. “Those charged were not engaged in peaceful protest.”
The 13 defendants range from 16 to 43 years old and live in Lancaster and surrounding communities, as well as in York, Camp Hill and Mercersburg.
Not all face identical charges. Accusations include arson, rioting, vandalism and for one, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
Sadly, I think the state has done a great service to the Left in establishing such a high bail for these defendants. The Eighth Amendment says that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Is a million dollars excessive for riot and arson charges? I’m not sure what a court of law might say, but in the court of public opinion, many folks are likely to say “yes.” After all, there are Pennsylvanians who are accused of driving drunk and killing people who’ve had their bond set far lower than $1-million. Generally a seven-figure bail amount is a sign that someone is being held for the death of another.
I get that the judge in this case wants to send a message, but in my opinion holding these suspects on $1-million bail sends the wrong message. Will the high bail scare some protesters away? Maybe a few, but I suspect it’s likely to actually bring in more agitators. Now the protests don’t have to be about Ricardo Munoz, which is good for protesters since the facts in the Munoz case are inconvenient to the Left’s cause.
Suddenly, the protests can be about the nine people facing a $1-million bail for their alleged crimes. They can be lionized and martyred even easier than Munoz, I’m guessing if they’re not soon released on a lowered bond, we’ll start seeing signs saying things like “Free the Lancaster Nine” outside of the police station in Lancaster.
To be fair, if it wasn’t the high bail there would be some other real or imagined outrage that the Left would employ to keep up the energy of agitators in Lancaster as long as possible. The problem is that the high bail is both a real issue and an unforced error on the part of the judge. Heck, we’re already seeing pieces about the “sorority girl” and the “volunteer medic” now facing charges that contain far more detail about their “mostly peaceful” personal lives than the crimes they’re alleged to have committed. It won’t be long until these individuals are elevated as heroes by celebrities and Democratic politicians, much like the McCloskeys in St. Louis have seen their profile raised by conservatives and the Trump campaign.
Instead of a high bail, judges and prosecutors should be instead focusing on a swift and speedy trial. Americans, by and large, come down on the side of law and order, but that doesn’t mean they’re in favor of a police state. Don’t give them any reason to view the punishment as worse than the crime. Swift and sure consequences for the riots and arson will do more to stop the chaos than asking celebrities and Biden/Harris campaign staffers to pony up bail money for those arrested. Instead of bring calm to the streets of Lancaster, I suspect that the judge’s decision to set bail so high has only reinvigorated the agitators in the city.