- - Monday, January 18, 2021

Justice is supposed to be blind, but Americans shouldn’t be. Whether carried out by black-clad anarchists or assemblies of flag-wavers, political violence should be dealt in evenhanded rather than selective fashion. If he hopes to restore order in a divided nation, President-elect Joe Biden will need to help unruly factions see clearly that the only proper manner of seeking redress of grievances is peacefully. Given the recent tumult, it won’t be easy.

Left-wing “social justice” warriors who ravaged cities across the nation in 2020 managed to fashion a public impression that left-wingers have little fear from the authorities so long as their protests were labeled “mostly peaceful.” In contrast, it would be hard to miss headlines blaring the mustering of the National Guard in response to a singular outburst of recent disorder by Americans on the right.

Noticed or not, political violence in the U.S. has spiked. In fiscal 2020, federal prosecutors conducted 183 domestic terrorism prosecutions, the highest number since recording began 25 years ago, according to data gathered by Syracuse University. Of those cases, 78 originated in Portland, the scene of that year’s most shocking strife. There, authorities defending the federal courthouse faced assault nightly from Antifa and Black Lives Matter armed with rocks, bottles, fireworks, laser pointers and firebombs over four months. By comparison, domestic terrorism prosecutions totaled 69, 63 and 90 across the entire nation during the preceding three years.

While the feds have been busy collaring the evildoers, local authorities have wavered. By late August in Portland, according to news reports, only 100 persons had been arrested by local police, with 74 charged. Of those, 53 faced misdemeanor or lesser charges. In Oregon, where littering can earn a year in jail, city officialdom apparently views rioting as no big deal.

The frequency of violent outbursts by so-called “progressives” has caused public attention to fade during an era overwhelmed by the jarring static of human strife. In contrast, the Jan. 6 madness on the National Mall has brought glaring scrutiny to a bizarre juxtaposition of patriotism and extremism.

To be sure, a proportion of those who attended the rally of support for President Trump went full zombie apocalypse in an unprecedented assault on the U.S. Capitol. Consequently, Washington now resembles Baghdad’s “Green Zone, with federal buildings protected with razor-wire-topped fencing in advance of the Biden inauguration on Jan. 20. With 25,000 troops stationed on the perimeter, the seat of government hasn’t been so heavily defended since Confederate forces marched to the outskirts of the city during the Civil War.

Political violence on the left has likely played a role in inspiring — wrongly — similar disorder on the right. If Mr. Biden is serious about binding up the nation’s wounds, he must remind Americans that riotous behavior from either point on the political spectrum will not go unnoticed or unpunished.

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