UPDATE: 2/24/2011 9:09AM ET. A thought occurred to me this morning, mainly because I don’t want to believe that a government official — someone who took an oath to protect the people — would suggest firing live bullets into a crowd of unarmed people exercising their First Amendment rights. But perhaps Jeff Cox’s comments were meant to try and scare people off, which is still reprehensible. Did Cox intend to shout FIRE in a crowded room or is he really serious about killing protesters? What do you think? Here’s what the Indy Star reported on Feb. 23, 2011:
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has dismissed a deputy, Jeff Cox, for posting inappropriate comments online critical of the labor union protesters in Wisconsin. … Cox sent out a message on his Twitter account saying that police should “use live ammunition” against the protesters. … A staffer for the political news site Mother Jones sent a message back to the person, who was then only known by his online account name. Cox messaged back that the demonstrators were “political enemies” and “thugs.” … “You’re damned right I advocate deadly force,” Cox wrote to the Mother Jones staffer. [….]
I read this article twice; the first time, I was stunned. This man was ready to use deadly force? This is America, not Tripoli. He’s a deputy attorney general not a deranged dictator. Protesters are guaranteed the right to assemble, to free speech. Or does Mr. Cox, and the Tea Party and the GOP think that the Constitution belongs to them and no one else. This sort of violence has left a nasty stain on our history and we need not repeat it.
Historically, there’s been a less than calm relationship between unions and the corporate community. Wealth is a wonderful thing, but if not checked and balanced with compassion and humanity, greed steps in. Hence our child labor laws and the formation of laws that protect workers of all ages. We need companies, we need jobs, we need unions. Each has a role to play.
In their 1969 publication, American Labor Violence: Its Causes, Character, and Outcome, Philip Taft and Philip Ross open their report stating that, “The United States has had the bloodiest and most violent labor history of any industrial nation in the world.” Too many company’s efforts to get the most work for the least cost created an environment that was intolerable, as well as inhumane. The gap between the haves and have nots was equally intolerable.
But once the fist gun is shot, or the first blow is struck, all bets are off. And what we are left with are incidents like the Illinois Central strikes (1911-1916) where private militia opened fire on unarmed strikers. Or the Ludlow Massacre in 1914 that resulted in 19 deaths during an attack by the Colorado National Guard on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado. Or the Memorial Day massacre of 1937; the Chicago Police shot and killed ten unarmed demonstrators during the Little Steel Strike.
Did strikers fight back? Of course they did. But violence is not the answer. Mr. Cox being dismissed from his job was the right thing to do. We cannot revisit this kind of history. We are better than that.
I have a question for everyone. I am asking this question because the GOP and the Tea Party are claiming that Americans do not think government employees should be denied collective bargaining rights. In fact, the Tea Party (funded by the Koch brothers no doubt) is organizing rallies around the country that are anti-union to prove that Americans disagree with the unions. So, what do you say?