The local protest movement against overzealous enforcement of stay-at-home orders has found a victim.
That the victim is a police officer who posted a video decrying overzealous enforcement, and not someone who actually received any such enforcement, pretty much sums up how our grievance culture of manufactured outrage works these days.
Last week, a Port of Seattle officer named Greg Anderson cut a video from his squad car in which he said the “tyrannical” crackdown over the coronavirus had gone way too far.
“We are violating people’s rights and taking money from them or even worse arresting them and depriving them of their freedom when they are exercising their constitutional rights,” the officer said. He called on fellow officers to stop enforcing the virus-control orders.
Anderson has now become a martyr of sorts because the Port put him on paid leave and is looking at whether he broke rules about not posting personal or political stuff while in uniform. A fundraising page for him has rocketed to more than $400,000.
“It would be an honor to be arrested by you someday,” read a typical comment.
This is all quite dramatic, but … where are all these arrests? He cited a couple in other states (which he does not mention were later dismissed). But in our state, the real story of the stay-at-home order is that enforcement has been virtually nonexistent.
Take Anderson’s own department. The Port police, with 110 officers, hasn’t issued any enforcement actions, against any individual or business, for violating the stay-home edict since it began in March, according to a Port spokesperson.
The Seattle Police Department likewise had not cited or arrested a single person as of Thursday, a department spokesperson said.
The state has received more than 25,000 complaints about people gathering, or businesses operating unlawfully, but “we have not made any arrests or issued any citations in regards to the COVID situation,” says Sgt. Darren Wright, of the Washington State Patrol. “The WSP continues to use education and engagement as our strategy.”
The governor’s office said that out of all those complaints it has sent cease-and-desist letters to only three businesses (a nail salon in Kitsap County, a barbershop in Snohomish County and the Petco pet stores for continuing to run its grooming salons).
More than 5,000 complaints about construction businesses possibly operating illegally didn’t lead to any enforcement actions. “The state never shared the hundreds of complaints against builders with municipalities — which actually had the power to stop work by suspending or denying building permits,” a Seattle Times story detailed this past week.
That is some mighty soft tyranny right there.
The officer in his viral video further sounds the alarm that government is “telling people they can’t protest,” as well as stopping traffic to check for “essential worker” papers.
“What are you the Gestapo? Is this 1930s Nazi Germany? … I think what is going to happen is we’re going to see bloodshed in the streets.”
But since April there have been more than a dozen protests all around our state just against the stay-at-home order. No one has been cited, let alone Gestapo’d, at any of them.
There’s a certain irony that we’re free to travel down to the capital to decry how tyrannical it is that they’re forcing us to stay home. But hey that’s America. Also America: Scoring a fat martyrdom bonus on GoFundMe.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling for the state to get tough. I’m a big fan of all this lack of enforcement. In fact in the spirit of the pandemic, I think the Port of Seattle should back off from firing the Freedom Cop, and the state should stand down from any punishment of the occasional rogue business.
Why? Because what we’re doing is actually working.
After having the first big outbreak of coronavirus in the nation, Washington now ranks just 25th among the states in cases per capita, 45% below the U.S. average.
We’ve either gotten lucky, or, more likely, the soft lockdown helped. So what if it isn’t followed to a T by all, or if it’s grist for a constitutional rant here or there? It turned out it hasn’t needed much enforcement, jack-booted or otherwise, because people organically rallied to the larger cause.
One of the first interviews I did after the outbreak was with an infectious disease specialist, who gave me the “do’s and don’ts” of social distancing. One of his top tips was: Try not to judge others for doing the shutdown wrong. It’ll drive you crazy for one, plus it won’t really help the effort. This is about doing the best each of us can, not a call for 100% enforced perfection, he said.
That seems more important to keep in mind than ever as we try to emerge from the lockdown, a period which promises to be even more challenging.
Dang, this opinion has nowhere near enough blood in the streets to get me martyred on GoFundMe, does it?