For weeks now, if not months, we have seen demonstrations, mass gatherings, and marches by “anti-mask” activists, in defiance of masking, social distancing, and other requirements adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These events have been marked by a notable absence of any meaningful police response.
This must stop. These things have been going on long enough and have a high enough profile that we know who the ringleaders are. Some of them even go so far as putting video of themselves smugly disregarding the law on YouTube. It’s not as if police and public health authorities haven’t had ample time to observe, evaluate, identify the perpetrators, and prepare to act. And it’s not as if they don’t have crowd control equipment and experience.
These people are a demonstrable danger to their fellow citizens, not to mention extraordinarily stupid and selfish. If it’s not illegal bump & grind sessions at Cherry Beach, it’s stuff like this — week after week after week, with zero consequences. And what kind of a message does that send? “We’re in a global pandemic, but don’t bother masking up or social distancing. And no need to take our public health measures seriously, because we’re not going to enforce them.”
These events make a mockery of efforts to contain the virus. They must be actively broken up. Arrests must be made. Tangible penalties must be levied. Yes, it’s going to be difficult. But that’s police work. If it were easy, we wouldn’t pay them so much. Moreover, police operations such as this will require public and unequivocal political backup.
If our public institutions — not just police, but the courts, the correctional system, elected officials, and public health authorities — aren’t going to put a stop to this, then what good are they?