Intimidation and Thuggery Come in Many Flavors
Nov. 24, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — Trigger warning: This isn’t really about criminal law.
Other trigger warning: If you are an Islamophobe, you won’t really like this article.
I was brought on to write at Fault Lines because I used to be a police officer. I don’t offer brilliant legal insight or novel new legal theories; I talk about how police look at issues and how they interact with law and the public.
This, however, is about a completely different issue. It is about the rights that all Americans have, and that every police officer swears (or affirms) an oath that they will protect. We swear that we will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Texas against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.
One of the largest mosques in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is in Irving, Texas, and I used to live about a mile away from it. It has a small school, just like many Catholic churches have schools for their parishioners. I used to go by it all the time, even visited it during an open house the mosque hosted to get to know the neighbors. It’s a great place with friendly people.
I also worked with (and for) a Muslim police officer named Muhammad who worships at that mosque. Muhammad is a great guy. He was born in East Texas, graduated high school and like many others, joined the Army. In the Army, he held a top-secret clearance and he guarded some of the tactical nuclear warheads in Europe.
After he got out, he became a police officer, and he was a good one. He served for about 20 years before he left the police force, and now he runs a small business. Other than being Muslim, there is no way that he is different from any other American. He’s always been there for me when I needed him, and he has stood by me during some rough times in my life. I’m honored to call him my friend.
So on Sunday morning, I was shocked to see that a bunch of loons had showed up to the mosque to protest, while openly carrying rifles and shotguns. The head loon, a David White, said they were the “Bureau of American Islamic Relations” (BAIR), an obvious play on the legitimate Council on American-Islamic Relations. White said the weapons were there for a “show of force” and for “defending ourselves.”
Uh, no, the reason that the weapons were there were so you could try to intimidate Americans who hold a different religious view from you. It’s pure thuggery. It is, in part, the result of demagoguery about starting a national registry of Muslims. It is, in part, the result of demagoguery about only allowing Christian refugees into the United States. It is, in part, the result of demagoguery about not allow refugees into Texas and issuing an order prohibiting non-profit, non-governmental organizations from helping those refugees. It is, in part, the result of demagoguery about rounding up Muslims and putting them in internment camps, like the government did to Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
Think about this for a minute. How would you feel if when you drove up to your church, you found in front of it a bunch of people, some masked, carrying rifles and shotguns? Who were holding up signs telling you to go away, that you weren’t wanted here? What if you were dropping off your children for school?
I had an on-line discussion about this with a friend who is more of a transactional lawyer than a litigator, and who is a committed Southern Baptist. My friend is a good guy who would give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it, and who has been very involved in his church, in his community, and in his local schools. He is a fine man and I’m also honored to have him as a friend.
He doesn’t see why I’m concerned about men with rifles outside of a mosque.
He is the guy that the Trumps, the Cruzes, the Abbotts, and all of the others are playing to. He’s the guy who is concerned about the safety of his family, and who the politicians are trying to scare.
So in the meantime, you have Americans trying to worship peaceably, and you have loons with guns “protesting” and trying to intimidate those inside.
And in-between them, you have cops.
Because here, in Irving, Texas, the police take their oath seriously. The police chief personally notified the Imam, and officers showed up to keep the peace. A city council member, David Palmer, showed up, and when told that the protesters had weapons for self‑defense, said:
Does it look like there’s any threat here? Nobody’s even close to them.
Palmer then expounded on the protesters and their weapons:
My initial impression was they were using them for intimidation. I doubt that they’d be happy if some of the Muslim churchgoers here showed up at their Christian church, their Baptist church, their Methodist church tomorrow morning with rifles slung over their shoulders.
The police were there to protect the minority religion, to protect their right to the free exercise of their religion. To protect them from those who would deny Muslims the same Constitutional rights that they demand be granted them, as Christians.
Because in Irving on Saturday, the domestic enemies to the Constitution were not inside the mosque, they were outside, carrying rifles and shotguns.
Because on that Saturday, the police really protected and served. And all Americans should applaud that.