Last year, the governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, signed the so-called Blue Lives Matter bill, which made the police a protected class under hate-crime laws in that state. Where hate-crime law traditionally dealt with prejudice against people on the basis of their immutable characteristics, this law protects people from hatred based on the profession that they’ve chosen. The law also protects Louisiana’s emergency medical personnel and firefighters, which are hardly hated groups.
The Blue Lives Matter law is back in the news, after a police chief in St Martinville suggested that resisting arrest should be considered a hate crime against the police. ‘We don’t need the general public being murdered for no reason and we don’t need officers being murdered for no reason’, said Calder Hebert on a local news network. ‘Resisting an officer or battery of a police officer was just that charge, simply. But now, Governor Edwards, in the legislation, made it a hate crime.’
The definition of resisting arrest includes fleeing an officer or giving false identification – are those acts of hatred? While this law purports to be about protecting the police (as if there aren’t laws that already do that), it inevitably gives more power to the authorities over the people they’re meant to protect. For example, if the law was carried out as Hebert suggests, then someone who was caught shoplifting and who resisted arrest would suddenly be at risk of 10 years in jail. Turning minor offences into serious felonies simply because of how the suspect reacts is an abuse of human rights, not a protection of them.
Some will see this as indicative of Trump-era America. But it should be remembered that the law was created while Obama was still in the White House, and the Louisiana governor who signed it is a Democrat.
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four has shot up the Amazon bestseller charts following Trump’s victory and the concern about his ‘alternative facts’. But what about thoughtcrime? Hate-crime law is inherently authoritarian, since it seeks to punish people for their mindset, for what they think. With the Blue Lives Matter law, officialdom, even the police, has chose to respond to identity politics by pursuing its own version of it, by cultivating a victim narrative and demanding the punishment of those who cause offence or express ‘hatred’.