Van Jones, Barack Obama’s onetime green czar, is back, this time as his own black czar. In a commentary for CNN published yesterday, Jones laments the latest in a long history of injustices committed against his people. He writes:
In their rush to punish African-Americans for exercising their First Amendment rights and pushing an end to oppressive law enforcement tactics, defenders of police brutality have lost all touch with common sense.
“As Violence Spikes in Some Cities, Is ‘Ferguson Effect’ to Blame?” asks NBC News. “How many New Yorkers must die before the mayor brings back stop-and-frisk?” blares the New York Post. In the Wall Street Journal, longtime defender of bad cops Heather MacDonald penned an utterly misleading piece on “The New Nationwide Crime Wave” blaming agitation on the part of those upset about the criminal justice system’s failure to hold police responsible for the killing of innocent citizens.
Even if we accept Jones’s heavily slanted analysis, where is his evidence that the protesters in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere were denied their First Amendment rights? The protests in Ferguson were permitted to go on for weeks. And even though the National Guard was ultimately called in to enforce a curfew in Baltimore, it was after the city’s mayor issued a statement that she later argued was ambiguous but was construed at the time as giving space to those who wished to destroy.
In addition, does Jones seriously believe that rioting and looting are covered by the First Amendment, which specifically guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”?
Finally, Jones’s passion for the Constitution, and especially the First Amendment, clearly depends on whose rights are being abriged. Speaking in 2012 at the annual conference of Netroots Nation, he warned that the Tea Party, if “allowed to score a trifecta” — viz., control the three branches of government — would use their power “to decimate us.”
It sounds as though Jones was militating against the free expression of a group whose views he disagreed with.