Before January 6th had become the rallying cry used by the longing-to-be-outraged Left, there was Charlottesville. The so-called Unite the Right rally in which a few hundred white nationalists and some patriots showed up for a licensed protest was eclipsed by the clashes with far-Left extremists, who came equipped to fight. The only takeaway that we are allowed to recall is that one man plowed his car into the leftist crowd, killing a counter-demonstrator.
For years, the 2017 Charlottesville protest was wielded as a baton by pundits and news anchors to assert that right-wing violence was the threat we should all be paying attention to. It didn’t matter how many Islamic terrorist attacks took place, how many riots broke out at left-wing protests, or how many inner cities burned while rioters chanted about killing police officers. Charlottesville was proof of the real problem. Counter-terrorism efforts by the United States government have likewise been obsessed with targeting “right-wing extremists” and “Christian fundamentalists.”
Now, with the January 6th narrative vaporizing due to more footage being released, leftists seem to want to reignite Charlottesville, that it might become a talking point once again. Long after the hitherto mentioned aggressive driver was charged, sentenced, and imprisoned, and six years after the protest, new indictments have been announced.
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Were there some especially egregious assaults that had been missed? No, those indicted were charged with felony “burning an object with the intent to intimidate.”
So, they were charged with having torches. If ever there were an obvious trumped-up charge, this is a clear case. It is clearly an abuse of the justice system for political capital.
The commonwealth attorney for Albemarle County, Virginia, James Hingeley, who brought the charges, had pledged to do just this during his election campaign. In a critique of the then-incumbent, he argued, “There’s a law, a burning objects law, that says they can be prosecuted but our prosecutor’s not doing that.” The weaponization of the justice system via sifting for obscure laws is not supposed to be a political strategy. It certainly shouldn’t be anything that one takes pride in.
The danger with cases like these is that the government doesn’t have to win them in order to do the intended damage and destroy lives. The financial toll of fighting charges with a good lawyer can be immense all by itself. The emotional toll can destroy families. Yet it seems undeniable that the charges are not about the men themselves. A six-year belated charge for lighting a torch is absurd, and everybody knows it. Yet, our society has become too fractionated by partisanship for anyone to blink at the notion.
The charges are really about sending a message and deterring any and all protest among those on the perceived Right. It’s a type of terrorism by those who are in positions of power, for it is meant to terrorize the political opposition into silence. It’s the threat that even if you don’t knowingly break the law, they will find something to destroy you and your family with.
Read Three Felonies a Day by Harvey A. Silverglate to see how this happens. In brief, we all break laws constantly, without even knowing it. The criminal code is so voluminous and complicated that we can’t possibly know all of the laws—and not knowing them isn’t a legal defense. Thus, if a prosecutor or a government agency wants to levy charges against you, they can.
Maybe you think the FBI’s infiltration into “trad” Catholic churches will be impotent because those folks are good people who aren’t doing anything wrong. If so, please reconsider. It’s not about what people are doing wrong; it’s about whether they are perceived as threats or whether their prosecution could neutralize opposition to the existing power structure.
These charges have been announced, largely with celebration and self-righteous adulation from the mainstream media, at a time when terroristic organizations like Jane’s Revenge target churches and pro-life centers with relative impunity. Left-leaning extremist groups rarely get coverage from larger news outlets, and they don’t get specialist task forces applied to them.
To demonstrate the partisanship further, remember that the Biden Administration dropped hundreds of cases against leftist rioters in Portland just after Biden assumed office. Many of those rioters had committed serious offenses against police officers, business owners, and private citizens who were unappreciative of the continued riots. A one-sided judicial system is an essential early step toward tyranny, for it provides an air of legitimacy to the persecution that comes later.
There are many who will not wish to speak in defense of the men who were recently charged because they dislike their political persuasions (or at least their persuasions from six years ago), or because they fear the consequences of association.
We must all be willing to speak against injustice when we see it, and not just because it will eventually reach our own doorsteps (though it will) but simply because it is right. The battle that we face is not inherently political but spiritual. It’s about good versus evil. Failure to stake a claim in that isn’t possible. We do so via action or omission, and we must be cognizant of which side we are taking.
Strangely, this is actually a freedom of belief case, because even though the official charges were about the torches, the men were clearly targeted for ideological reasons. Unjust prosecutions should be condemned by all, as should the transformation of the judicial system into the disciplinary wing of a political party.
Staying back from the fray because we might be somehow lumped in with the ideology of the accused is both immoral and foolhardy. Those who make those routine accusations don’t do so in good faith, and their failure to see nuance and context is intentional. There is no placating the people who want those who burned torches to be imprisoned but those who burned cities to be lauded. We are bound by duty to speak against what is wholly unjust.
[Image Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images]