Politics & Policy

Don’t Assault Lawless Leftists — Sue Them into Bankruptcy

Anti-Trump protester outside a Trump rally in Chicago, March 11, 2016. (Jonathan Gibby/Getty)

Left-wing criminality is getting out of hand. Over the weekend, anti-Trump protests escalated yet again, this time affecting thousands of Americans who had no interest in Donald Trump and no involvement in his rallies. A small gang of leftists strategically blocked a major Arizona road, not only impeding access to Trump’s political event, but also backing up traffic for miles. This is a favorite tactic of leftist protesters (Black Lives Matter protesters recently blocked the San Francisco Bay Bridge), and it has to stop — along with every other protest tactic that violates the rights of innocents.

The leftist media loves to love this lawlessness, and public officials are relentlessly pressured into administering the most meaningless slaps on the wrist — sometimes even letting protesters walk without charges. The Left demands most-favored-criminal status for its social-justice warriors, and it typically gets exactly what it demands. Criminality largely goes unpunished, so-called direct action is rewarded with fawning accolades from the media and celebrities, and the rule of law is diminished.

To be clear, these protesters aren’t exercising their First Amendment rights. They’re suppressing free speech. The First Amendment doesn’t create a right to interrupt or shut down rallies, close roads, or block access to businesses. When law enforcement fails to defeat or deter unlawful protest — often despite days of advance notice of disruptions — it fails in its basic duty to protect the law-abiding public. It creates waves of bitterness and resentment.

RELATED: End the Double Standard on Political Violence and Unrest

Trump’s response — to appeal to the most unhinged members of his audience and incite violence (another protester was violently attacked on Saturday) — will only provoke further escalation. And if Trump secures the nomination, expect a rolling and dangerous carnival of violence moving across the country as Trump campaigns to November. In the absence of law, the radical Left flourishes. This is their moment, and no amount of assault will deter them from disrupting Trump rallies, violating the rights of Trump voters, and degrading our democracy with a spirit of anarchy.

There is, however, an answer, one that doesn’t depend on spineless local prosecutors and doesn’t involve a violent response. Sue them. Sue the protesters into bankruptcy. Answer each lawless act with a civil complaint, seek injunctions, take discovery to reveal the full extent of leftist astroturfing — do you really think these protests represent spontaneous, uncoordinated events? — and collect money damages. Protesters aren’t deterred by small fines and short detentions, but financially ruinous damage awards raise the stakes.

#share#There is ample precedent for this effort. As George Washington University professor John Banzhaf catalogues, in New Jersey, the so-called Bridgegate scandal has spawned a class-action lawsuit filed by individuals and businesses who claim they suffered damages as a result of the Christie administration’s retaliatory lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. In June 2015, NPR reported that a protester in Michigan who had stopped work at an oil pipeline by chaining himself to a truck was ordered to pay $39,000 in restitution for the economic consequences of his criminal acts. In Washington, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a radical environmentalist organization, faces millions in fines for its attacks on lawful Japanese whaling activities. Indeed, restitution is such a threat to the Left’s precious “direct action” that activists exert massive pressure on public institutions to drop restitution claims after unlawful protests.

RELATED: Don’t Blame Trump for Divisiveness When the Left Says Stuff Like This

But where towns and cities fail, individual Americans should (and must) defend the rule of law. State law generally provides citizens with multiple avenues for civil redress when they’re harmed by criminal acts, and — if the criminal acts meet certain threshold requirements — there is even potential relief under federal statutes. The Left, for example, has used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) — originally designed to stop the mafia — against pro-life protesters. There is no reason why similar facts can’t create similar remedies, but this time with social-justice warriors in the crosshairs.

If Trump was truly interested in defending and vindicating the rights of his supporters, rather than engaging in faux-macho posturing, he can put a tiny fraction of his billions to work actually protecting the rule of law. When local prosecutors and town officials are spineless, Trump could help bring justice. Where free expression is under attack from the Left’s heckler’s veto, Trump could protect the First Amendment. Trump is famously litigious. Instead of promising to pay the legal fees of his own criminal supporters, why not instead pledge to support voters who have faced real harm?

Of course it’s not just Trump’s responsibility; the RNC and others could easily step up when law enforcement fails. The Left loves its “direct action.” It’s time for it to learn that direct actions can have costly consequences.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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