This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
Maybe it’s a quirk of perception or news coverage, but politically motivated crime appears more common in Olympia than in Seattle, whose population is approximately 12 times larger.
And much of the crime – vandalism, assaults, the occasional riot – can be linked directly to “anarchists” and local college radicals, groups that partly overlap.
Different crimes push different peoples’ hot buttons. Ours got pushed – hard – when anarchists defaced the offices of The Olympian, The News Tribune’s sister newspaper, and the home of an Olympian photojournalist, Tony Overman.
Overman’s offense consisted of photographing rioters and vandals at Olympia demonstrations; police have used his images to prosecute those crimes. He and The Olympian were targeted by anonymous political thugs for documenting public events, a direct assault on the First Amendment.
But what happened to Overman and the Olympian is only part of a much broader problem. The state capital has been plagued for years by a malignant subculture of radicals who feel entitled to attack the persons and property of people they don’t like. They have physically assaulted police officers, smashed police cars, thrown bricks through windows, jammed locks and ATMs with glue, defaced public buildings, churches and businesses.
As The News Tribune’s Sean Robinson reported Sunday, self-styled anarchists – some of them imports from Oregon and California – have taken a prominent role in the violence in recent years.
Anarchism is a nearly useless word because it covers so many differing political tendencies. Some anarchists are peaceable people who don’t like capitalism and concentrations of power in general. But the anarchist movement has been associated with political violence since its birth in the 19th century, and it continues to spawn angry, hateful thugs who see things that need smashing everywhere they look.
It’s especially ironic that some of them have protested “police brutality” by brutalizing individual officers during demonstrations.
Most appear to be young and emotionally immature; that doesn’t make them less dangerous or their victims any less victimized.
Their numbers shouldn’t be exaggerated; the reports suggest that relatively few people are generating most of the violence and vandalism. That should make them a target of opportunity for law enforcement. A year or so of aggressive investigations and felony prosecutions would go a long way toward making Olympia a place where peaceful dissent is welcome – but political crime not tolerated.