Giving a mob the dignity and legitimacy of referring to them as “protesters” just encourages them. A prime example occurred two days ago in New Haven, at the traditional Harvard-Yale game, the culmination of the Ivy League college football season. Personally, I wouldn’t have crossed the street to attend the 136th edition of “The Game,” though I witnessed the most famous of the them all, 1968’s 29-29 tie. Nonetheless, what a bunch of climate-addled demonstrators inflicted on a large group of students and alumni just trying to have a good time enjoying football, traditions, nostalgia and camaraderie should not be romanticized. The “protesters” are arrogant, disrespectful and anti-democratic jerks. Boola-Boola.
A large mob of Yale Bowl spectators rushed the field at halftime, demanding that Harvard and Yale divest themselves of investments in fossil fuel and energy companies, delaying the start of the second half by nearly an hour, and causing the game to finish in near-darkness. Students from both schools, who didn’t care who they hurt or inconvenienced, rushed to midfield as soon the Yale band finished performing. ( At least they could have done it while the Yale band was performing…)The contest resumed after the Yale police issued 42 summonses for disorderly conduct. But the wasted hour threatened game’s finish: the Yale Bowl lacks stadium lights, and the game went to double overtime. Yale won just before it became too dark to play.
The Ivy League referred to the protest as “regrettable.” and Yale said that while it “stands firmly for the right to free expression,” it added that “the exercise of free expression on campus is subject to general conditions, and we do not allow disruption of university events.”
So will Yale suspend or expel any of the mob? Of course not.
Protesters that set out to get attention by disrupting the lives of law-abiding citizens engaged in innocent activities are low-level terrorists. They aim to bypass democracy by creating implicit threats, hoping that their adversaries will surrender to just shut them up and avoid the annoyance.
I’ll admit, my attitude toward these kinds of protests was hardened after I missed several weeks of college classes when a small group of militant students took over a building, provoked police, and sparked a strike that shut down the university for most of a month. They demanded divestment too, of investments in defense contractor companies, but their original grievance was that the college allowed students who wanted to prepare for a military career to take ROTC on campus. You know, choices and alliances that the morally superior mob disapproved of. Can’t have that.
Those who want to hold demonstrations to inspire public awareness of an issue have the Constitutional tools to do so. These unlawful mob actions, in contrast, are the antithesis of democracy, and the way to stop them is to stop treating such protesters as anything but the public nuisances they are.
In Washington, D.C., Jane Fonda is trying to re-live her Hanoi Jane heyday by leading illegal–no permits!—climate change protests. The District isn’t prosecuting her, and it apparently isn’t “the King’s Pass” at work. The D.C. Attorney General’s office is “woke,” and almost never prosecutes protesters, not just celebrities, even when Iraq War protesters lay down in traffic in 2002 and caused thousands of commuters to be hours late for work, and later when the “Occupy” anarchists camped out in Farragut Square. This, I believe, is an abuse of prosecutorial discretion, unethical both in principle and in its long-term effects, which are to endorse mob action as attempted vetoes over majority rule. It creates the opportunity for risk-free civil disobedience, breaking the law but not having to endure the essential penalty for doing so.
Not all mobs will be regarded equal, of course. Thus demonstrators for conservative causes typically don’t test D.C.’s dedication to equal treatment. They get permits.