Reflections on the Puerto Rican Day Parade

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It
has been weeks now since the notorious attacks of the Puerto Rican
Day parade, and some might argue that we should let this gruesome
event fade from memory. Yet before we let this happen, I think it's
necessary to correct a widespread misconception.

To
a man, every libertarian to comment on the affair has blamed the
systematic campaign of police-bashing led by the likes of Al Sharpton.
According to this now standard explanation, the police were told
to take a "hands-off" policy towards the parade to avoid
any racially charged incidents. It is no surprise, so the conventional
wisdom now holds, that repeated charges of racism and police brutality
have led to a breakdown in the social order. As one police officer
reportedly said, "You're damned if you do and damned if you
don't."

But
this excuse lets the cops off too easily. Anne Peyton Bryant, the
glib rollerblader who made a name for herself by demanding a personal
apology from Mayor Guiliani, explained in a sobering radio interview
that after her attack, she and a male friend appealed to a police
officer for help. He said he could not leave his post directing
traffic. He refused to even radio for help, nor (according to Peyton)
did he even slow his stride as she related her horrific tale.

Peyton
and her friend, understandably incredulous, went to another officer,
and received similar treatment. She then approached three officers
who were sitting on the steps of a building. Peyton maintains that
not only did these officers fail to hurry to the rescue, they didn't
even stand up.

Now
Peyton was very composed in her radio interview, and seemed to be
a rational young woman. Her friend corroborates her story. What
is despicable about the officers' complacency (assuming Peyton is
being truthful) is that she repeatedly exclaimed that other women
were likely being attacked at that very moment. If a hysterical
woman approached a traffic cop and yelled about a vicious assault,
yet had no visible signs of injury – Peyton managed to escape with
all of her clothes, against the best efforts of the "youths"
who attacked her – it is understandable (though still inexcusable)
that he might consider her to be overreacting and send her off to
fill out a report concerning some rowdy groping in an anonymous
crowd. But Peyton – and her male friend, who was also physically assaulted – said
there were dozens of rampaging thugs who were at that very moment
randomly assaulting women, and still the officers did nothing.

Another
point to keep in mind is that the "wilding" campaign lasted
more than thirty minutes, and dozens of women were sexually assaulted.
This was not the result of a finely honed police force, whose noble
hands were tied by the insidious forces of political correctness.
No, this was simple dereliction of duty. The police chief and others
bemoan the huge area which needed to be patrolled; the police can't
be everywhere at once, for heaven's sake! True enough, but consider
for a moment how incredibly sparse their coverage must have been.
For not only did no police officer personally see the dozens of
thugs attacking even more young women, for more than half an hour,
but supposedly no police officer was even in sight of the hundreds
of witnesses who saw the outrages being committed.

Somehow,
I don't think this could have happened in Disneyworld. (And if it
did, the owners would certainly not have thrown up their hands and
said the Magic Kingdom was simply too big to patrol – Mickey
can't be everywhere.) It's true, my analogy is a bit imperfect;
for one thing, I doubt the “disadvantaged youths” involved would
have sprung for the steep admission price to the wonderful world
of Disney. But this too is no accident; the owners of amusement
parks know full well the disastrous consequences of widespread assault
on their customers. If protecting its customers means locating the
theme park in a "defensible" geographic region, such that
undesirables can be kept out, then that is what a private company
will do. For if something like this had actually happened
at Disneyworld, it would have spelled hundreds of millions of dollars
in lost revenue for the next several years, and maybe more.

In
contrast, the police department's budget for highly compensated
overtime will be increased for next year's parade, since
"obviously" the amount spent this year was insufficient.
Moreover, the tax money appropriated from New Yorkers to maintain
Central Park will not go down simply because fewer people now have
the intrepidity to venture into it. Few New Yorkers will change
their voting behavior simply because of this incident; the Puerto
Rican Day parade will certainly have no effect on the outcome of
any future election. In short, the only real consequences suffered
by government officials after a scandal such as this is that some
of them might feel bad.

In
conclusion, we must reject the feeble excuses of the mayor and police
chief. The citizens of New York should not have to choose between
rectal assaults of black inmates on the one hand, and rectal assaults
by Hispanic hooligans on the other (for apparently one of the accused
found a novel use for his water bottle). The events of the Puerto
Rican Day parade demonstrate, not so much the unintended consequences
of political correctness, but rather the unavoidable consequences
of government police.

June
27, 2000

Bob
Murphy is a graduate student in New York City.

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