- - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Black lives matter, and they matter so much that everyone, black or white, is responsible for protecting them. That begins with demanding that “demonstrators” and “protesters” pay a little respect to the black lives they say they honor.

The latest bonfire of distorted vanity by punks, vandals and thugs was set Tuesday night in Charlotte, N.C., a city which does not fit the profile of a city set against black lives. The mayor is white, female and a Democrat, the police chief is black and the officer who shot and killed the black man he was trying to arrest was black. Nearly everything about the incident was interracial, even the riot. Some of the rioters were white thugs out to join a riotous night on the town.

Sixteen police officers, whose lives matter, too, were injured, one of them seriously if not critically when he was hit in the face by a thrown rock. A police van was set afire. A Wal-Mart store was looted for the usual flat-screen television sets and iPads, the target of choice by those looting to make a point of the yearning for social justice.

Police said Keith Lamont Scott was shot by an officer when, after he was stopped, he got out of his car and reached into his car for a gun.

There followed an explosion of excuse-making on social media, with passionate assertions that Mr. Scott was reaching not for a gun but for a book (but probably not a book by Dr. Martin Luther King or a volume of Shakespeare’s sonnets). Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney said the officer who fired the fatal shot was dressed in plain clothes and accompanied by officers in uniform when he approached Mr. Scott.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Scott was pointing a gun at the officers, but the chief said his officers were closely studying video evidence of the attempted arrest. “I can tell you that we did not find a book that has been referenced to,” he told reporters. “We did find a weapon. The weapon was there and witnesses have corroborated [it], beyond just the officers.”

Police abuse in America happens. No one can dispute that. But by the numbers it’s an aberration, not a routine, and when it happens it must be punished, and punished severely. Wearing a badge, and enjoying all that a badge represents and conveys, is a privilege and an honor. Most police officers regard it so.

What we have seen this summer, along with incidents of legitimate abuse, are incidents of deliberate confrontations by lawbreakers with police. Most of us learn at an early age, taught by parents and others that obeying the lawful orders of policemen is a both a duty and a necessity. There will be time afterward to argue whether the order was right and just.

Trying to disarm a cop is asking for bad trouble, because it nearly always ends in tragedy. Until the lawless among us learn this lesson, even if the hard way, lives both black and white will pay the price of foolish misjudgment. The lawless must hear that, loud, long and clear.

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