Give police credit for Va. response

Some of those involved on both sides in the violent confrontation in Charlottesville, Va., agree on one thing: Blame the police.

Could law enforcement officials and officers have done anything better in their reaction to the mayhem last week? Perhaps. Rest assured, they have been analyzing their strategy and tactics since Saturday, in efforts to be prepared for the next demonstration that may turn ugly.

But blaming the authorities for what happened in Charlottesville is a bit like blaming your umbrella for not keeping you dry in a hurricane.

Start with the position in which we place law enforcement: The First Amendment – rightly – requires that no matter how concerned they are that a public demonstration may turn violent, they must allow it to proceed. Should violence break out, individual officers and deputies understand that in responding to it, they will be accused of unnecessary brutality. If, on the other hand, they use a restrained approach, they will be accused of having permitted the violence to occur.

So what were the authorities in Charlottesville to have done last weekend?

Clearly, some of those on both sides of the controversy arrived at the protest site ready for physical confrontations. Some definitely were eager for fights to break out.

Within minutes, they did. At that point, law enforcement officers could only attempt to restore peace.

As for the man who used his car to kill a woman and injure several others, no one in their right mind would claim police could have done anything to stop him.

So don’t blame the police. Blame, instead, those among the demonstrators who instigated the violence – and who should, if at all possible, be identified, arrested and prosecuted.