Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, December 19, 2019
“It’s the judges,” they tell us. Every election, the grassroots gripe about Republican failures. Every election, politicians and Conservatism Inc. tell us to stop complaining and vote GOP because we need conservative judges to protect our rights.
Yet President Trump has just nominated U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen to the U.S. District Court. Mr. Cullen is the man who prosecuted Rise Against Movement (RAM) members for their actions at the ill-fated Charlottesville protest in 2017.
Mr. Cullen indicted RAM members with an anti-riot statute originally passed to stop Vietnam War protesters. The Washington Post wrote a glowing profile on Mr. Cullen, in which he explained: “Hate crimes and violence by white supremacist organizations that qualify as domestic terrorism are way up. Prosecuting them is common sense.”
There is no white-supremacist violence “surge.” Mr. Cullen simply wanted to destroy this group. He credited far-left journalists with providing a “starting-point” for his investigation, and the FBI relied on a hit piece from antifa for its criminal complaint. Four RAM members pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to riot” charges. Mr. Cullen ignored — consciously or not — the obvious truth that if there had been no antifa protesters, there would have been no violence. If the “conspiracy to riot” law were enforced fairly, he would have prosecuted antifa as well. He didn’t, apparently because he takes orders from liberal journalists.
What’s more, we know from an independent investigation that state and local officials wanted violence so they could justify shutting down a legal protest. Then, having gotten violence, they ceded the streets to mobs, with tragic results. Mr. Cullen and the federal government have not investigated these officials.
“Conspiracy to riot” is a vague, dangerous charge. In June, Judge Cormac Carney dismissed indictments against RAM members in California in a separate case. The judge found the law unconstitutional and said it criminalized protected speech. He denounced RAM’s “toxic ideology” but said “courts must be wary of government attempts to censor a particular view, especially on the basis that certain ideas cause ‘disturbances.’” He said there must be an “imminent” threat for speech to be illegal. Organizing a rally or preparing for unspecified conflict doesn’t count.
Some journalists in California found the verdict “extremely disappointing.” Would they feel the same way if the Anti-Riot Act were used against far-left protesters? They were the law’s original target. RAM defense lawyer John McNicholas pointed out the double standard: “Beyond the unconstitutional nature of the statute, nothing about the case makes sense because the people inciting the riot [antifa] were never charged with a federal offense.”
Mr. Cullen does not appear to agree. His potential appointment is ominous because Virginia, now a solid blue state thanks to demographic change, is already considering legislation that could be selectively enforced. House Bill No. 1601 would require the Commonwealth to create lists of “domestic terror groups.” This would be any group of “three or more persons, whether formal or informal, which has an identifiable name or identifying sign or symbol” that has committed or planned to commit “domestic terrorism.” The law is worryingly vague about what terrorism is. In theory, it could be used against antifa, but it won’t be. When it was introduced, Fairfax County NAACP head Kofi Annan said it would have prevented the Unite the Right rally by pre-emptively labeling groups as “domestic terrorists.” Which groups would that be?
The Virginia Senate is debating a different bill that would regulate “paramilitary” activity. It states that training anyone in the use of firearms or any “technique capable of causing injury or death” is illegal if the instructor knows “or has reason to know or [intend] that such use will be employed for use in, or furtherance of, a civil disorder.” It also prohibits parading with weapons for the purpose of “intimidating” people.
With laws like this, the question is whom law enforcement will persecute, not what the law says. For example, the leftist group Redneck Revolt often shows off its weapons, as it did at Charlottesville. Are they “intimidating” people or exercising their rights? Self-styled “militias,” or “prepper groups” practice what to do if there is a civil disorder. How do they fit in? If a Proud Boys chapter started unarmed self-defense training, would that be illegal? What about an antifa group? How is an instructor supposed to know if his training will someday be used in a “civil disorder?”
Some Virginians are fighting back. The Virginia Citizens Defense League claims that more than 100 Virginian counties and cities have declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.” For example, the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary that would not use county funds on “any effort that would infringe upon its citizens’ Second Amendment rights.” These resolutions are mostly symbolic. Yet in response, the Virginia legislature is debating a bill that would fire public officials who refuse to perform their duties — for example, by not enforcing gun control. Social media groups and pro-gun websites are openly discussing “militias” as the ultimate safeguard for the right to bear arms. Slate wants a crackdown on militias — but cites only “white supremacist” and “right wing” groups as threats.
Any crackdown will be subjective. That’s why Mr. Cullen’s nomination is wrong. He selectively enforces the law based on political and media considerations. For the RAM case, he took his cue from left-wing journalists. He ignores groups that proclaim revolutionary intent but indicts groups that defend themselves. He practices “anarcho-tyranny.”
The House just impeached President Trump. I’m having a hard time caring. President Trump probably doesn’t even know Mr. Cullen’s name, but he should. If these are the judges he gives us, it’s hard to see why we should support him.