If Gov. Steve Sisolak had taken President Donald Trump’s advice, a Metropolitan Police Department officer probably wouldn’t be fighting for his life in the hospital.
On Monday, Trump addressed the widespread rioting and looting that’s followed the horrible killing of George Floyd. “Today, I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets,” he said. He urged mayors and governors to establish “overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.”
Even if you despise the president, this shouldn’t have been controversial. With unrest brewing, either rioters are going to dominate the street, engaging in vandalism and violence, or law enforcement is. When people are rioting, they aren’t listening to reason.
Sisolak, however, took a different approach. He issued a late-evening statement focused on attacking Trump, not rioters. He accused the president of “inciting combativeness, stoking racial tensions and creating division.”
It would be one thing if there wasn’t contemporaneous evidence that a peaceful protest could turn violent. But around the country, thugs have beaten up innocent people, burned down buildings and looted stores. A federal officer was shot and killed in California.
Nevada wasn’t immune from unrest either. Over the weekend, rioters committed property crimes in Reno and Las Vegas. On Tuesday, a Metro spokesman said at least 25 of its officers have been injured since the start of these protests.
Sisolak ignored the numerous signs that something could go horribly wrong. Unfortunately, it did. A demonstrator late Monday night shot Metro officer Shay Mikalonis while officers worked to take some protesters into custody. As of Tuesday evening, Mikalonis is on life support.
Sisolak isn’t responsible for this violent and senseless act, of course. But he underestimated the threat. The Nevada National Guard was waiting Monday night. Sisolak didn’t have them on the streets. Also, Sisolak and local government leaders could — and should — have had Metro clear the crowd hours earlier, which likely would have prevented the shooting.
A note here on the Black Lives Matter protests. There has been a big effort to separate the widespread rioting from the actions of peaceful protesters. Former President Barack Obama claimed, “The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible and inspiring.”
It’s fine to grant most protesters the benefit of the doubt. It’s understandable that they wouldn’t want their movement tarred by the actions of a minority of participants. They wouldn’t have as much to protest if they extended police officers the same courtesy when thinking about isolated incidents of a cop using excessive force.
But when you start your rallies at dusk, you’re inviting trouble. There are more than 14 hours of daylight right now in Las Vegas. If you truly desire a peaceful protest, end the demonstration an hour before sunset and ensure the crowd disperses.
Until then, Sisolak needs to turns his focus from sniping at Trump to keeping Nevadans — including police officers — safe.