- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2019

From dousing police with water to doxxing immigration agents to attacking detention centers, it’s been a long, hot summer for law enforcement, and the inflammatory political rhetoric on the left isn’t helping.

Four Immigration and Custom Enforcement facilities have come under siege in the last month, most recently the Tuesday shooting at the field office in San Antonio, Texas, as Democrats upped their attacks on the administration’s immigration policies with blasts at “concentration camps,” “Gestapo tactics,” and “children in cages.”

Daniel Bible, ICE San Antonio field office director, was quick to connect the dots, saying the “disturbing public discourse shrouds our critical law enforcement function and unnecessarily puts out officers’ safety at risk.”

“Political rhetoric and disinformation that various politicians, media outlets and activist groups recklessly disseminate to the American people regarding the ICE mission only serve to further encourage these violent acts,” said Mr. Bible in a Tuesday statement.

Similarly, Rep. Tom Reed, New York Republican, blamed the incendiary political climate for fueling locals caught on video soaking New York City police officers with water — and throwing a bucket at one — prompting him to call for a federal hate-crimes investigation.

“These actions are a result of Democrat politicians spouting anti-police rhetoric to gain cheap political points,” Mr. Reed said in a Wednesday letter to Attorney General William P. Barr.

Even as Democrats seek to blame President Trump’s border-security calls for stoking violence, notably the El Paso mass shooting, the party is facing a backlash over the rhetorical excesses of some of its leading figures, starting with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Her viral “concentration camp” comparison was cited in a manifesto by Willem Van Spronsen, the armed antifa activist who was killed by police July 14 after he threw incendiary devices at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, which he called an “abomination.”

“It has become fashionable again, in the aftermath of the mass shooting by a white separatist in El Paso, Texas, to ascribe blame for political violence to President Trump and his allies,” said the American Spectator’s John Jiang in a Thursday op-ed. “The knife cuts both ways.”

Todd Bensman, senior national security fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, cautioned against blaming political disagreements and policy debates for acts of violence committed by unhinged activists, but said politicians cross a line when they start invoking Nazi Germany.

“If you speak of ICE detention camps as concentration camps, and you speak of ICE agents as Nazi, brown-shirted thugs, then there are people out there who will think, ‘I need to do something dramatic and violent to stop that,’” said Mr. Bensman. “That kind of speech strikes me as a form of incitement.”

A year before this summer’s attacks, he began warning of the potential for violence driven by extreme anti-ICE language, citing examples such as a cartoon on social media showing how to disembowel an agent with a knife.

Most Democrats have refused to embrace the hyperbole. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has distanced herself from the “concentration camps” talk, while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in June that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s description was “wrong.”

Last week, however, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat, condemned the Trump administration’s “Gestapo tactics” in an interview on MSNBC, while Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Massachusetts Democrat, have called the president a “racist.”

Has such rhetoric fueled the ICE incidents? “I think the question is, what role is the president’s rhetoric playing?” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat, told Business Insider.

Democrats have decried Mr. Trump’s use of the word “invasion” to refer to the immigration crisis as well as “infest,” such as his tweets about “crime infested” sanctuary cities and an “infestation” of MS-13 gangs in some areas.

“The president has been continuously attacking — attacking in violent, disgusting ways — black and brown people across this country,” Ms. Jayapal said. “And he is the man who said, ‘I could go into the street and kill somebody and nobody would care.’ “

‘Disenfranchising of law enforcement’

On Aug. 9, the fifth anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, Sens. Kamala D. Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts marked the occasion with tweets referring to his “murder,” even though a grand jury found the officer who shot him used justifiable force and the Justice Department declined to prosecute.

The episode underscored the friction between Democrats and police who have accused leaders of siding with anti-cop activists, fueled by the uproar over the deaths of black men at the hands of police ignited by the Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

While Democrats have vowed to fight police brutality and unwarranted shootings of black men, police advocates argue liberals have too far, resulting in a lack of respect on the ground shown in episodes such as the drenching of stoic New York City officers by a group of locals.

During Thursday’s lengthy standoff between Philadelphia police and a gunman who shot and injured six officers, video emerged showing a crowd of people heckling and harassing a group of officers even though the shooter was still active.

“It’s a horrible, horrible manifestation of what’s really been the disempowerment, the declawing, the disenfranchising of law enforcement in America today by all the cop haters, all the liberal elitists,” said former New York City detective Pat Brosnan on Fox News.

William Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, pointed to the growing sentiment on the ground in many big cities that liberal municipal officials are at odds with their police departments.

“It’s not everybody, obviously, but for a small group, it’s like, ‘Hey let’s stir up something. Here’s a convenient target. No one I know — or the mayor — is going to get upset if I attack the police,’” said Mr. Johnson. “It’s dangerous and it’s growing more and more dangerous.”

He said the targeting of police and ICE agents are running on “a parallel set of tracks.”

“What you’re seeing in the attacks on the ICE facilities is something that could easily happen in cities like New York, for example, or Chicago. Philly may be going that way. Baltimore,” Mr. Johnson said. “Where it’s not enough to attack individual officers. Let’s attack the station itself. I hope that doesn’t happen, but unless communities demand that these particular elected leaders change their tune, I don’t see anything stopping it. Other than the summer ends.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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