A Tale of Two Arsonists

Urooj Rahman

Among the dozens of anarchists arrested over the past two months, few have gotten a more vociferous defense from the anti-police left than Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, two "public interest" lawyers accused of firebombing a police car.

Their defenders, who argue that the criminal justice system is stacked against the poor and underprivileged, were the first to invoke Mattis and Rahman's elite credentials when pressing the courts to cut them slack.

Mattis and Rahman are high achievers: He is a Princeton and NYU Law grad with a corporate legal job, and she graduated from Fordham Law after spending a summer in "occupied Palestine." These credentials, of course, didn't protect them from federal charges after they lobbed Molotov cocktails into an NYPD patrol car, but their defenders now cite them in pleas for leniency and special treatment, both in the courtroom and in the press.

Both were bailed out, with Rahman's release guaranteed by an Obama-administration alumna who called Rahman her "best friend." The duo have received friendly coverage in the Intercept, CNN, and NPR. All emphasized the young lawyers' sterling credentials, echoing a letter signed by hundreds of NYU alumni in their defense.

Compare that with the story of Isaiah Willoughby, a Washington resident now facing federal charges for attempting to burn down a Seattle police station. Willoughby is a former foster kid and a small-time entrepreneur who once ran a quixotic campaign for city council. He also has a rap sheet a mile long.

Willoughby's case, unlike that of his well-heeled counterparts, has received little attention in the liberal media. He remains in federal lockup, according to Bureau of Prisons records.

Our view—and the Justice Department's—is that the cases deserve equal treatment.

It is telling that the anti-police left has made Mattis and Rahman their leniency cause célèbre, citing their elite credentials while crowing simultaneously about inequity in the criminal justice system.

It's the same dynamic captured in a video of protesters taunting NYPD officers for not having college degrees, or by the little-mentioned statistic that a majority of those living in the poorest communities, regardless of race, want more, not fewer, police in their neighborhoods.

And it explains why progressives are ready and willing to take cops off the streets. Radical is the new chic, and defunding the police is what's in this season. If it means violent crime spikes and young men get shot, that's not their concern—it's the little people's problem.

Published under: Police