Stamping Out Anarchy by Police Powers
AT THE present pitch of public excitement the conscientious police
official who is called upon to deal practically with the suppression
of potential anarchy finds himself in a most difficult position.
On the one hand he feels the force of a tremendous public sentiment
against the murderous enemies of the law; on the other, the sobering
weight of direct responsibility and a sense of the inadequacy of
the agencies at his command. He is in sympathy with the righteous
indignation of a people outraged by the act of an assassin, and
the popular clamor that this hidden reptile, which menaces the lives
of the representatives of the law, must be stamped out, meets with
a response in his own heart. But he also realizes that he is hedged
about with inflexible limitations.
First and foremost of these is the
knowledge that he must keep within the law. For him to exceed
the law would be to resort to the very means and methods advocated
by the anarchists themselves and thus furnish strength to their
own arguments and doctrines. Such a course would inevitably intensify
the hatred against the law which is held by those of anarchistic
tendencies and thereby bring the law into shameful disrepute. The
logic of this is so self-evident that the statement of the principle
might seem wholly superfluous and uncalled for; but a review of
the public statements made by good citizens under the stress of
passion provoked by the lamentable tragedy at Buffalo will indicate
that there is good reason for the reminder that all efforts for
the suppression of anarchy must be strictly within the law.
It only remains, therefore, to be
said that the law itself should be so strengthened and fortified
that it will be powerful and comprehensive enough to enable the
properly constituted authorities to deal effectively with anarchists
and every other class of persons who scheme to overthrow the Government
by violent means.
Of course the commission of an overt
act makes the way of the police power clear and open, so far as
those connected with that particular crime are concerned. This,
however, is not the most perplexing problem which confronts the
police executive in a crisis like the present. He faces the question:
What can the police do to suppress incipient anarchy before it takes
form in open crime?
There is but one answer to make to
this inquiry, and it is this: Keep all persons who may reasonably
be suspected of anarchistic tendencies under a strict, constant
and unremitting surveillance; give them to know that they are always
under the eye of the police, that their doings and utterances are
carefully watched, and that the police know at any moment where
to put hands upon them when trouble occurs. This is the most effective
discourager of anarchy at present within the power of any police
force in America. That this will be more consistently, persistently
and generally done in the future than it has been done in the past
cannot be doubted. Continuous and unflagging effort in this line
is, it seems to me, the key to the whole situation, so far as the
police are concerned.
The first and main effect of such
a line of procedure will be the deterrent influence upon the anarchists
themselves. Every human being shrinks instinctively from the thought
of being “shadowed,” and anarchists, practical or theoretical, are
no exceptions to this rule. Then, in case of an actual outbreak,
this surveillance is likely to enable the police authorities to
catch suspects before they are able to get out of the way and to
gain clews useful in uncovering proof of conspiracy.
So far as Chicago is concerned, it
should be said that its anarchists have not yet forgotten the lesson
instilled by the Haymarket convictions and they still cherish a
wholesome dread of that word “conspiracy.” Although the person who
actually threw the bomb which sacrificed the lives of eleven police
officers and injured fifty-five other policemen was not captured,
swift punishment was dealt to the conspirators, a number of whom
were hanged and other sent to the penitentiary.
Since then the anarchists of Chicago
have had no large meetings; they have indulged in no outbreaks,
no public appeals to violence and no open denunciation of government.
Their old-time cry of “Down with the government!” has been effectively
stilled, for they know that they are watched and that the law will
be rigidly enforced. Also it is due to Chicago to say that the most
searching police investigation has failed (up to the time of this
writing) to bring out any evidence that the plot against the life
of President McKinley—if plot existed—was hatched in this city.
I have found nothing to indicate that the anarchists of Chicago
had any direct connection with the awful tragedy at Buffalo. But
my information does indicate that the hotbeds of anarchists having
murderous tendencies are located east of Chicago.
Suppression of open meetings where
free discussion within the limitations of the statutes is heard
invariably has a tendency to embitter and intensify the hatred of
the law held by those who would overthrow the Government or make
government impossible. This, too, has a tendency to cause such persons
to operate through secret meetings. Too stringent a repression of
“free speech” furnishes these persons with new weapons and new arguments
by which to appeal to the passions of those who harbor latent anarchistic
tendencies, and adds fresh fuel to the fires of their hatred for
law and order. So long as their utterances are within the law they
must be allowed; if the law is at fault, then let it be remedied.
And in any event it is plain that police powers must, in this province,
be exercised with great discretion and in a manner not to aggravate
the very offense against which it is desired to protect the public.