I was a bit startled earlier by a quaint, nostalgic sentiment quoted by M. Simon:

All who follow a code of ethics or principles are self-governors. Our system is meant to protect the self-governors from those without ethics and principles, perpetrators of fraud, rape and violence. The state does not run the affairs of people in a free society. It upholds justice between people who conduct their own affairs.


So… let us suppose you manage to start up and build a brick and mortar style business despite the endless government regulations making that nearly impossible, that you pay all your fees and taxes, that you lick the boots of the bureaucrats who can shut you down at any time if you don’t comply with their unending and constantly escalating demands, and that you manage by the skin of your teeth to keep the business open, that “the system” will protect you if bunch of bad guys band together in a mob and launch an unprovoked attack on your business?

I was thinking yesterday about writing another post complaining about the latest in the now-regular reports of organized looting, but I thought, why bore the readers? You already know what I think, and I’ve been writing my thoughts publicly for a decade so what’s the point? The point here is that every time I read another one of these numbing reports, I feel violated. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I was a small business owner myself, and I know what it feels like to be a sitting duck when the mob arrives.  When the government in free market society supposedly governed by rule of law refuses to protect law-abiding business owners against a mob attack by enforcing the laws against mob attacks, that’s as much a crime against all of us as the mob attack itself.

No matter how many times I read these stories, they horrify me.

In yesterday’s news, an organized mob attacked and looted a store in Chicago. The owner of course tried to do the right thing, and called the cops:

Cho said it took police 30 minutes to reach his store after the 911 call went out about 6:45 p.m. on Saturday. He said officers told him they were delayed by the many street closures for Wicker Park Fest.

Cho called the incident organized looting, pure and simple. Police confirmed they’re investigating the robbery, but have made no arrests as of Sunday afternoon.

I have complained before about the callused foot-dragging by police. They simply do not treat these incidents as what they are. They call them “flash mobs” (as if that changes the nature of a violent criminal conspiracy), and they blame “social media.” Moreover, in those cases where arrests are made, the police and prosecutors treat it as if it is garden-variety shoplifting:

“They proceeded up the hill to the Sears store and entered together,” police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said, estimating 30 to 40 teens engaged in the planned flash mob.

The ages of those involved range from 11 to 19.

“In the tapes you can see him leading them up the street,” Chitwood said. “He’s wearing a white cap. On the videotape you can see he holds the door open for everyone to enter. It looks like Marsh and three or four others stayed outside serving as lookouts. The gang went in and went out within four minutes. Nobody was threatened and nobody was hurt.

“We are in the process of preparing the juvenile petitions for retail theft against all the juveniles arrested. We want all the hearings held together instead of separately. We want all the cases tried together and we want their cooperation. This is an open investigation.”

Sorry, but I went to law school, and I am here to tell you that what happened is not simple theft. It is robbery, which is a taking of property accomplished by force or fear.

When an organized mob invades a peaceful and law-abiding store, they put the owners, employees, and customers in fear of violence, if not their lives. It is analogous to strong-arm robbery, because of the show of force, and it has the intended effect of inducing compliance. Store owners cannot resort to the “self help” methods they are legally entitled to take because of the size of the mob. There is power in numbers, and it works the same way small town jailers holding accused criminals used to be unable to stop mobs bent on lynching them.

The point is, violence and threats of violence are effective, and anyone who doubts that the perpetrators understand that principle is in my opinion a despicable fool.

In another incident, local authorities at least paid lip service to the idea of maybe actually watching the video and not only trying to catch them, but to charge them with the crimes they actually committed:

“They tried to overwhelm the employees so they went in as a group and started destroying banners, tearing up boxes and stuff,” Sgt. Steve Bevens with Troutdale Police said.

He said they also stole food and shoved items into their jackets.

Surveillance video also shows two boys get behind a counter and try to steal a cash register. Kids are also seen throwing produce and riding a motorized scooter.

“All of a sudden a mob of kids come walking out and some of them are running,” said one witness who called 9-1-1 but did not want his name published. “I heard Albertsons employees yelling at them.”

He said he heard the suspects bragging about how much they stole.

“What shocked me the most was the girls had the most stuff,” he said. “It wasn’t just the boys.”

Only one police officer was able to respond to the call because other officers were busy elsewhere. He found the group of kids at a nearby bus stop and called for backup.

Bevens said some of the kids tried to intimidate the officer, but the officer randomly pulled two of the teens aside and arrested them for a curfew violation.

So far police have not arrested anyone for the actual theft, although Bevens said investigators are watching surveillance video from the store and trying to get the names of the kids.

“We’re going to work with the district attorney, juvenile system and charge them with everything we can,” Bevens said.


I wonder whether they really are going to do that. Because, if they did, it might actually make a difference. As things stand right now, merchants are getting desperate. I witnessed a shoplifting incident at a local store, and I saw the store employees who told the guy to stop standing there watching as he just forced his way past them and ran away. “We are not allowed to do anything else,” was what one said to the other. Mind you, it happened so fast that at first I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I remember in the old days they used to use force against shoplifters. Now times seem to have changed. Maybe it’s the insurance companies fearing lawsuits by employees if they are injured by a perp, or lawsuits from the perp, but I know one thing.

I would not want to be a merchant right now.

What do you do if your business is invaded? Shoot the invaders?

A gun group is quoted thusly in a liberal HuffPo piece:

“the most effective defense a victim could muster against a flash mob would be for the victim to draw a concealed firearm.”

I would agree, and of course it is easy for me to agree from the relative safety of my home sitting here at the keyboard. But if I owned a store and a bunch of juvie thugs came charging in, what do you suppose would happen to me if I pulled a gun and they ignored me and I opened fire? No matter what your opinion about self defense, while drawing a gun might work, a pile of dead or wounded 12 year olds is not something I would want to have to deal with or live with.

Perhaps that makes me a coward. If so, go ahead and call me a coward. I get a little tired of this process called blogging anyway, and I don’t like the fact that anticipating criticism causes me to have to explain in detail every last thought lest I be misunderstood — only to discover that I will be anyway.

Being misunderstood is what blogging is all about.

There. I just said something which needed to be said, although I’m sure others have said the same thing. This process is irritating, but I am only slogging through this post because I am sick to death of mob violence being tolerated, encouraged, and even glorified.

Sorry, and go ahead and criticize me all you want, but I don’t think it is especially helpful to see people who know better winking at mob violence as if its cute and revolutionary:

“Step Up Revolution” taps into the dance “flash mob” phenomenon and moves to Miami to give us the sunniest and most entertaining of these kids-gotta-dance musicals.

The flash mobs — in traffic, dancing on the roofs, hoods and trunks of low-rider vintage cars in Miami traffic, disrupting museum openings and a developer’s planning meetings — are a brilliantly choreographed, well-shot and sharply-edited treat.

Oh, I’m sure the choreography is beautifully done and sharply edited.

Kids gotta have violence, doncha know. Even if “reality” sometimes “intrudes””

Well, except for one unfortunately timed stunt involving a darkened room, smoke bombs and menacing dancers charging in wearing gas masks. And another, with dancers imitating machine guns strafing a crowd. Sad that the news intrudes, inadvertently, on this late summer cotton-candy treat.

I pity any small business owners who might be in the audience just the same way I would pity a rape victim who had to watch a beautifully choreographed musical depiction of a rape scene. Does whoever cranks out such garbage think the kids have a right to invade stores and steal, and the merchants just ought to go with the beautifully choreographed flow?

I am so sick and tired of seeing serious, organized criminal conspiracies being dressed up as something else that I feel I am becoming paranoid, and I am not even a small business owner anymore.

My worry is that portraying them as “flash mobs” and as a social media “trend” minimizes the serious criminal nature of what is going on, and by muddying the water, only masks the greater problem, which I think is police paralysis:

The suspects in these crimes often connected via cellphones and share information on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, police say.

How best to combat the technology-connected crimes — and how far police agencies should reach into private online and mobile phone access — are at the core of a growing debate among police officials, city leaders and civil rights activists. Everyone agrees: It’s uncharted territory for law enforcement.

“You’re looking at an emerging form of crime,” says Sean Varano, a criminologist at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. “We don’t know what power these police agencies have to monitor these websites or where do reasonable expectations of privacy start. ”

A recent survey of 106 retailers nationwide by the National Retailer Federation showed that 80% had experienced multiple-offender crimes in the past six months and one in 10 had been hit by a criminal flash mob, says Joseph LaRocca, a senior adviser with the group. “These crimes are not new,” he says. “What’s new is the social network and Internet activity to coordinate these ad hoc attacks against stores.” He adds: “We’re still trying to figure out how best to address these issues.”

Addressing them is often tricky. Earlier this month, the Cleveland City Council proposed making it a crime to summon a flash mob via Facebook, Twitter and other social media. It was a response to recent flash mob violence in Cleveland suburbs that was mobilized by social media sites. Mayor Frank Jackson vetoed the proposal, saying the ordinance might infringe on residents’ rights.

“Use of this technology in a criminal way and how we react to it — without throwing away the Constitution — is a challenge we all have,” Jackson says. “We want to be responsible.”

The Constitution has nothing to do with it. Social media and cell phones are simply mediums of communication, like telephones or just plain talking. They do not alter the nature of the crimes committed, and there is no need nor is there any right for the state to engage in surveillance of innocent citizens. If anything, the social media communications can later be used as evidence to build a case.

What they first need to do is first arrest the people in the videos. Treat them the same way that bank robbers captured on video are treated. Offer rewards, and when one perp is found, get him to rat on the others.

Do I have to write a blog post to point out that robbery is a serious crime? Or that conspiracy to commit robbery is a very serious federal crime?

(a) Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
(b) As used in this section—
(1) The term “robbery” means the unlawful taking or obtaining of personal property from the person or in the presence of another, against his will, by means of actual or threatened force, or violence, or fear of injury, immediate or future, to his person or property, or property in his custody or possession, or the person or property of a relative or member of his family or of anyone in his company at the time of the taking or obtaining.
(2) The term “extortion” means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.
(3) The term “commerce” means commerce within the District of Columbia, or any Territory or Possession of the United States; all commerce between any point in a State, Territory, Possession, or the District of Columbia and any point outside thereof; all commerce between points within the same State through any place outside such State; and all other commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction.

The law is quite old and it is called the Hobbs Act.

The FBI touts its unique benefits:

Benefits of the Hobbs Act. There are three main advantages:

The penalties are harsher than in local prosecutions. Sentences of 20, 30, or 50 years, and even life sentences, have already been handed out by federal courts around the country.
Since the federal system has no parole, anyone receiving a federal sentence serves out the full term (no early-out for good behavior).
Faced with long prison sentences, some of the suspects in these cases will cooperate with law enforcement and prosecutors—giving up names and knowledge of other crimes—in return for reduced sentences.

Trying these conspirators in federal court and sentencing them to lengthy prison terms would in my opinion accomplish far more than the current approach of calling it shoplifting, blaming social media, and staging beautifully choreographed musicals.

Oh, I almost forgot about Philadelphia’s lame approach of addressing mob violence as a curfew violation problem:

To deal with mobs, which keep residents barricaded in their homes and visitors away, Mayor Michael Nutter has instituted a citywide curfew. Common sense tells us there will now be a drop in flash mobs, although violent incidents are still occurring just outside the targeted zones.

The problem is that the curfew seems to be the mayor’s only answer. Curfews won’t solve the underlying issues for why the uprisings are occurring. But since flash mobs have been plaguing the city since early 2010, the mayor has shown himself to be unable or unwilling to address the root causes.

So the situation only worsens.

Curfews are simply too expensive and resource-intensive to be maintained, and police become bogged down processing curfew violators instead of focusing on the real criminals prowling the city. And that is simply not the most effective use of our crime-fighting resources.

Curfews also create resentment among those affected, most of whom are law-abiding citizens. The majority are punished for the actions of a few.

Read more on Newsmax.com: Philly Flash Mobs Not Solved With Curfews
Important: Do You Support Pres. Obama’s Re-Election? Vote Here Now!

Uh, no I don’t “Support Pres. Obama’s Re-Election” but where was I?

It fascinates me that there are existing law enforcement tools available which could be used to put these people away for a long time, and instead of doing that, the law enforcement agencies sit around and talk about curfew and surveillance measures directed at everyone else.

Meanwhile, SWAT teams routinely conduct home invasions against wholly innocent people purportedly to look for evidence of victimless crimes. Whether you like the drug war or not, what are our priorities? Why is it considered more appropriate to break down the doors of alleged pot sellers than upholding the rights of law abiding citizens and business owners who are victims of serious mob violence?

Speaking of business owners, in this morning’s news, I see that the DEA illegally “commandeered private property from a law-abiding businessman and ineptly deployed it in an operation that got a man killed and now endangers a family that had nothing to do with the case.

And of course, we all know about “Fast and Furious.”

Nothing new about any of it.

But the idea that a state which countenances criminal behavior by law enforcement is there to “uphold justice between people who conduct their own affairs” — that was just something I could not ignore.

MORE: I should add that instead of upholding justice, the government often does the opposite. You’d almost think the goal of the state is to make citizens feel as terrorized as possible while they cling to the vain hope that the government is there to protect them.