There were many note worthy events at the protest clashes in Virginia this past weekend. I have already taken the time to condemn the barbarity of both movements and will not do so again in this article. Rather here I would like to draw your attention to what I think was the most over looked event of the day. Virginia governor terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in the city and shut down the event before it began, and before the fighting in the streets even began. The right to peaceful assembly was suspended by the government at the threat of violence.
The federal constitution of the United States has a clause that is referred to as the Supremacy Clause. This dictates that where there is a conflict, disagreement, or misalignment of local or state law with federal law or the constitution then the federal is assumed to be correct and take precedence. As an example, this is why marijuana use and possession is still considered a crime even though it is legal or at least decriminalized in a growing number of states.
The amendments to the constitution are on equal footing with all other articles of the constitution for the purposes of pecking order in the legal system. The first amendment to the constitution has within in it a guarantee to the right of free assembly. It does not and in fact should not define or create borders around what free assembly is. This is a matter that is left to the states and municipalities themselves. In most places this is as simple as securing a permit, or renting out a given space for your use.
By issuing these permits, or by allowing the “public square” to be rented from them the local or state apparatus state is then obligated to insure and protect this federally recognized right to free assembly. This is derived from the understanding that the purpose of government, if it is to exist, is to protect and defend our rights when we are unable to do so ourselves. This is where we see the failing and the cowardice of the government of Virginia and specifically their governor.
Having secured their permit, the rallying groups then also had every right to hold their event. The event never began however because fights supposedly began breaking out shortly before it began and their permit was revoked. There is no way of knowing and no real point in knowing who swung first in these fights. What is relevant is that if the government had been doing its job, then those committing the violence should have been promptly arrested and all non-violent rally goers and their counter-protesters allowed to continue as they were.
What happened in reality is that the state revoked their permit after an encounter somewhere in the area and then ordered the rally to disperse. It was when this happened that the real trouble began in the first place. I was not there. I do not know for certain what happened. What I know, and what is publicly known is that rioting and mass disorder only began some time after the state intervened to shut things down and commanded everyone to leave. The government then had a responsibility to protect both counter-protesters and rally goers. The state monopoly on violence is only justified by it exercising force to defend the polity that cedes the right to force.
The government first refused to act on its responsibility to the people of this country. It then failed when it did attempt to act on its responsibility to the polity. Nobody should have been hurt. The event should not have been shut down. Whatever you think of the people involved, I am on public record as finding them all loathsome, they have the same rights as all of the rest of us. Anti-fa, nationalist, simpletons alike it doesn’t matter. The government owes them protection from violence against them until any of them exercise actual violence against someone else.
Shame on you Terry McAuliffe and shame on you Virginia. The violent acts of the individuals are on them, but the fact that it had the chance to escalate is on you. You have one job, you had better start acting like it.