Dichotomy exists between the July 14 arrests of protesters outside Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s Louisville home and the absence of any charges resulting from the Memorial Day weekend demonstrations at the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion.
During what was organized as a celebration of the Second Amendment, some 100 demonstrators assembled at the state capital over the holiday. Morphing into a protest of the governor’s coronavirus containment restrictions, protestors – some legally carrying firearms – ignored and crossed over a small barrier and onto the porch of the mansion where they yelled and taunted the governor to come outside.
An effigy of Beshear was hung from a tree on the state grounds. A note was tied around the dummy’s neck onto which the Latin phrase “sic semper tyrannis” was written. Generally translated “thus always to tyrants,” history records John Wilkes Booth shouting the phrase as he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in April 1865.
News of the mock lynching went viral. It was the topic of news programs nationwide. Rightly condemned by both Democrat and Republican elected leaders, the incident has been taken seriously enough for Kentucky State Police executive security officials to gain approval for construction of a new and larger barricade around the Governor’s Mansion to better protect Beshear and future governors.
What reasonably could be viewed as an attempt to incite violence against a duly-elected representative of the people failed to result in any arrests.
Contrast this with what occurred outside Attorney General Cameron’s home, one in which it isn’t clear he occupied at the time.
Gathered to demand Cameron take action in filing criminal charges against Louisville police officers involved in the shooting death of Brianna Taylor, 87 protestors with the social justice group known as Until Freedom were taken into custody after refusing to leave his property when ordered by police to do so.
Their alleged threat of burning down his home if indictments aren’t made against the LPD officers resulted in felony charges under an intimidation law their attorney says is intended to protect domestic violence victims. KRS 524.040 states, “A person is guilty of intimidating a participant in the legal process when, by use of force or a threat directed to a person he believes to be a participant in the legal process he or she: Influences, or attempts to influence, the testimony, vote, decision, or opinion of that person. Force by definition can be actual or implied and is the power, violence or pressure directed against a person. Entry into the ground of another without consent is an example of implied force.”
The Class D felony charges have been dropped against those arrested. Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell said although probable cause existed for the felony charge “in the interest of justice and the promotion of the free exchange of ideas, we will dismiss that charge” for each protestor arrested.
It isn’t clear if the misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and criminal trespass will stand.
Difference certainly exists in the circumstances underlying the two demonstrations. Nevertheless, the behavior and actions of those outside the governor’s mansion were allowed and considered protected speech while that of individuals gathered outside Cameron’s home lead to their arrest.
At a time when seemingly every action or inaction is called out as contemptuous evidence of social injustice, inequality or outright racism, the contrast between these two incidents provides an example of inconsistencies perceived or experienced by many.
This editorial reflects a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.