Baltimore’s Mayor has a Strange View on Rights

At a news conference in the wake of Baltimore’s Freddie Gray-related protests turning destructive Saturday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that she instructed police to give people who “wished to destroy” space to do so.

Source: Baltimore Mayor: ‘We… Gave Those Who Wished To Destroy Space To Do That’

[Updated 2:02pm, 04/28/15]

If there is one thing that I have learned over the time I have been actually paying attention to and studying politics it is that the very concept of rights is being undercut and corrupted to the point where it is now virtually meaningless. Today people feel they can claim anything they want, health care or a “living wage” to give two common examples, are rights. To package such things with actual rights, such as those of free speech and property, weakens the actual rights. Such a package deal views rights not as something inalienable that arises from our nature as human beings who live in a social setting and should be protected by government but rather as things that are granted by the government and can just as easily be taken away.

This corruption of the concept of rights has reached a new low with a statement from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray related protests which turned destructive.

In the article linked above quotes Baltimore’s mayor:

I worked with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech

It’s a very delicate balancing act because while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.

It is certainly true that individuals have the right to exercise their free speech (protests likely are not free speech but rather freedom of assembly or petition to redress grievances, a difference that doesn’t change the point I am making) by peacefully protesting the tragic death of a young man in police custody, but by what stretch of the imagination can the right of free speech be expanded to the right to destroy other people’s property? The right to free speech is about communicating ideas. The moment someone initiates force, whether it be one person exhorting another to acts of violence or actually committing those acts himself, as was the case here, it stops being speech. There is no “right” to initiate force, against another person.

In ordering the police to give “those who wished to destroy space to do that,” Mayor Rawlings-Blake defaulted on the one proper function of government: to protect rights. In failing to understand that violence and destruction are not speech, she permitted and in some measure enabled the violation of the rights of the innocent, not to mention the destruction of their property. It is likely that she felt she was doing some sort of balancing test, weighing the protesters’ right of free speech against the rights of others to their property, and came down on the side of the protesters. If she had properly understood what rights are she would have realized that there is no balancing test needed as there are no conflicts between rights. As soon as the protests, a proper right of every individual, turned violent they stopped being speech and became rights violations. Violations which it was her duty to protect the citizens from.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the aftermath of this. As my brother, who pointed this story out to me, asked:

Have to wonder, given her abdication of duty to protect the rights & property (via police) of lawful citizens, whether those who had their property destroyed can sue the city (and her) for recovery & losses?

[Update (04/28/15 2:00pm): I heard, overheard actually, on the news this morning that the mayor is now decrying the “thugs” who, as compared to the peaceful protests of last week, are senselessly “tearing down what so many have fought for. Tearing down, destroying property.” What exactly did she think the result would be when she stated publicly, as quoted above, that she was working with police to give those who wished to destroy the space to do so?]

3 thoughts on “Baltimore’s Mayor has a Strange View on Rights

    1. Larry Black (@LarryBlack10)

      She was perfectly clear. From the “Stand Down” order clearly heard over the radio by a Deputy Sheriff who was one of dozens of officers brought in to help with the situation, to the “Let them loot/riot, it’s only property.” reported (anonymously) by a senior Baltimore City Police Department official.

      We saw the same during the Ferguson, MO riots when some were advocating for the police to “back off” and let the rioters “get it out of their system” because a strong police presence and enforcement of law and order “only makes things worse.”

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