America Comes to Sacramento

A Marine Challenges California Police to Check Their Guts and Man Up

Last Friday (May 1st), several planned protests took place across California in objection to Governor Gavin Newsome’s restrictive stay-at-home orders. By this stage of the coronavirus saga in California, no permits were being issued for any events at any state properties, including the capital, in keeping with the governor’s order banning large gatherings. So, the protesters were knowingly engaging in civil disobedience. A stage had been set, and it was probably inevitable that a showdown would take place.

Early on, the scene at the state capital in Sacramento became a study in contrasts. Hundreds of men, women, and children came out to take part in a peaceful protest. It was a clear sunny day, and the atmosphere they created had the look and feel of a block party. A diversity of people in tee shirts, jeans, hats, and sandals waved flags – most of them American, but there were others too; carried posters with messages like, “Land of the Free” and “Feeding my children is essential” and “Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things;” and called out in unison, “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”

Meanwhile, standing over them along the sidewalk’s edge, police officers outfitted in full riot gear (plus coronavirus masks behind their face shields) lined the capital grounds two or three men deep, polycarbonate riot batons firmly and threateningly grasped in both hands.

At some point, Cordie Lee Williams, an LA-area Marine veteran who’d flown up specifically for the event, took up a bullhorn and spoke directly to the officers. He acknowledged that they were only doing their jobs, but he challenged them to go a step beyond mindlessly carrying out orders. As they stood there, prepared to do violence to unarmed and unmenacing men, women, and children, he challenged them to check their consciences and consider carefully what those orders were and how they stood up against the oath of office they’d taken when they became officers:

The question is, Are you going to stand down? ... Are you going to sit there in your riot gear against peaceful protesters? Or are you going to say, “You know what? It’s time to stand up for my country. Because I took an oath of office and it said, I will defend [against] all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

They were earning paychecks to come out in riot gear, he pointed out. Meanwhile, the citizens they were threatening had been barred by government fiat from earning their paychecks to provide for their families and so were exercising their Constitutionally guaranteed right to petition their government. Did the men, women, and children before them qualify as enemies, foreign or domestic? Williams didn’t put it to them that way, but it was a valid question for them to reflect on.

He explained the principle of evaluating what is meant by a lawful order, and he challenged the officers to man up and evaluate the order they’d been given:

When you’re given an order, you’ve got to say, Is this a lawful order? Or is this a bull**** order? When something’s a bull**** order and it doesn’t pass the sniff test, that’s when you say, Sergeant – , that’s when you say, Colonel – , that’s when you say, General – , that’s when you say Governor, I’m not doing that. I didn’t sign up for that. That’s what it takes. ... Now is the time for you to decide. What side of history do you want to be on?

He challenged them to carry out an additional task as men of conscience in a position of authority:

Your job right now is to do a gut check. Your job right now is to say, Is this ethical and moral? And if it’s immoral and it’s unethical, you don’t follow that order.

He acknowledged that there could be consequences for the officers if they defied an order:

You might lose your job. But I’d rather lose my job than lose my soul. What are you going to go tell your little boy or your little girl tonight? That you took a baton and you crushed somebody’s skull that was a mom? Is that what a tough guy does? That’s not what honor, courage, and commitment means in the Marine Corps.

He spoke to them about manly leadership:

Guys, I want you to understand – truly leading is always about taking the first step to stand up when morally and ethically you don’t feel like something is right. ... I chose to come here today because I knew I had to take a stand for liberty. I had to choose to take a stand.

And that is exactly what he did. He took a reasoned stand for American liberty and challenged them to do the same. Over the course of about ten minutes, he mentioned the Geneva Convention, the U.S. Constitution, and Galatians 5:22, which lists the fruits of the Spirit. He told the officers that he realized his words could provoke some anxiety for them, and he said he would help them with that if they did (he’s a doctor). He also said he would be praying for them and for their families.

After he spoke about manhood, ethics, and true leadership, officers began turning around and walking back toward the building. A few at first – no words, no signals. They just turned around and walked way. Then some more followed suit. And then more. Clearly, for many of them, Williams’s reasoned appeal to conscience prevailed.

Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that, “One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.” Williams spoke truth to power that day, and from the looks of it, truth prevailed. Power listened, and voluntarily stood down. This is a great victory for every American. Joshua Coleman and Steve Strange at The Scoop caught it on film, and you really should click here and watch it. It’s an immediate, living example of what America is all about. Learn from it and be prepared to do likewise when and wherever necessary.

 is Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

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