Talking as tough as U.S. President Donald Trump himself, Iowa Sen. Jake Chapman took time away from the family-centered joys of Father’s Day Sunday to bring his sound and fury to bear on the subject of Saturday’s protest at the Hy-Vee food store on S.E. 14th Street in Des Moines.
Chapman, a second-term Republican from Adel, represents Iowa Senate district 10, which includes Perry. He is well known for his Second Amendment principles in defending arms bearing, and he made a brave statement Sunday in defense of “the rule of law.”
“We are literally watching the disintegration of our Nation before our eyes,” Chapman said of the grocery-store protest, which included vandalism to a Des Moines Police Department patrol vehicle.
Chapman described America’s disintegration as ranging “from desecrating/destroying statues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, to burning, looting and the destruction of businesses, to full anarchy in ‘police free zone’ – in which at least one civilian has been murdered, to blocking entrances so customers can’t enter HyVee.”
Thankfully, no one was murdered at the Hy-Vee protest Saturday, no statues toppled and no businesses destroyed or looted. Reports indicated the protesters blocked the parking lot and store entrance and spray painted the police car.
A Des Moines Police Department spokesperson said no arrests were made or citations issued as a result of the protest, not even against the employee of a Des Moines-area heating and cooling company who tried to drive his truck through the crowd of protesters, though he was fired from his job Monday.
Yet Chapman’s enthusiasm for “the rule of law” led him to call Sunday for deployment of the Iowa National Guard in Des Moines in order to quell the criminal protesters and prevent “the destruction of both public and private property.”
“My solution is to call in the guard,” he Facebook posted, “and then withhold state funds for providing the service to these cities who refuse to enforce our laws. Like you, I have had it, enough is enough!”
Chapman seemed especially critical of Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, a Democrat, for not taking a more muscular posture toward the protesters.
“Perhaps its time for Mayor Cownie to come before the Government Oversight Committee and start answering why his law enforcement is not intervening,” he said.
In linking to an Iowa Standard story about his Facebook post, Chapman said, “We will restore law and order! These criminals must face justice! The First Amendment is not a license to loot, destroy property, intimidate others, block roadways or shut down businesses. Elected officials not willing to enforce our laws must also be held accountable!”
Iowa Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, speaking in August 2019 after the mass shooting of Hispanics at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 people dead and 24 injured, said Chapman was “so far out of the mainstream that he won’t even join the national conversation about how to improve public safety in the United States.”
Sticking to his guns, Chapman intervened in a big way Sunday in the conversation about public safety in Des Moines, delivering a stinging rebuke to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We must restore the rule of law!” Chapman declared. “”I stand with the good men and women who serve in our law enforcement.” He added several hashtags to his Facebook post: #IStandWithPolice #EnforceTheLaw #AllLivesMatter.
Chapman’s law-and-order rhetoric was equaled and even exceeded by some of the comments that his social-media speech elicited.
“This is so far out of hand!” said one alarmed citizen. “It’s time to knock some heads together and take back control. If this is not stopped, we will never be able to safely leave our homes!”
Another person called for a swift and brutal response: “This needs to be dealt with swiftly and even if we have to (be) harsh with them by sending in the Marines to whoop a little ass to show them that cops were extremely nice with tasers! There’s nothing worse to a nation than domestic terrorism which they have committed at the beginning and still are, to tear up well established nation in a matter months!”
A number of commenters also called explicitly for the use of deadly force against the Des Moines Black Lives Matter protesters: “Lock and load. Watch the protesters head explode,” said one advocate of gun violence.
“People with permit to carry all need to riot against the BLM and Antifa,” said another pro-Chapman gun-rights advocate. “That’s what it’s going to take.”
A third said, “Locked and loaded because my life matters. Terrorists lives do not matter.”
This is a very small sample of nearly 500 comments made in response to Chapman’s post. Most agreed with the senator but not all.
“Sen. Chapman does not represent the area where these crimes occurred,” noted one Facebook commenter. “He’s doing what he always does in the Trump era: stokes fear and division in an effort to increase his own power. Don’t fall for it. No Iowan signed up for Guard duty to act as police in Des Moines.”
Chapman replied to this Facebook critic, saying, “I support having the guard called up to enforce the rule of law when these criminals are shutting down businesses and the police are told not to intervene.”
Standing his ground, the Facebook critic challenged Chapman’s bona fides as a principled libertarian.
“You are calling for the National Guard to be deployed against Iowa citizens? Was all your libertarian/conservative rhetoric of the past all for show?” the commenter asked. “This is literally the least conservative or libertarian move you could make. This is why you must lose the next election. You shouldn’t wield any power over others when your knee-jerk reaction to minor criminal infractions is to call in the military. I can’t tell if Trumpism has led you to this place or you always leaned toward authoritarianism, but either way it’s scary, and it’s wrong for Dallas County and Iowa.”
Chapman rejected the implication that he is a hypocrite as well as the label of authoritarian.
“Authoritarian for enforcing the rule of law?!?” he said. “I would love to hear where my opponent stands on the issue, and let’s take it to the voters!”
Chapman was alluding to the opponent he will face in November’s general election, Democrat Warren Varley from Stuart, a farmer and attorney, who spoke to the topic of the Hy-Vee protests Tuesday on Facebook.
“My opponent claims to stand with the good men and women who serve in law enforcement (as do I),” Varley said on Facebook. “However, rather than criticize local officials and interfere with local decision making as my opponent does as he calls for the National Guard to be deployed to Des Moines, I commend the members of the Des Moines Police Department and local leaders on their restraint and clear demonstration of de-escalation skills. The situation at the Park Avenue Hy-Vee easily could have led to violence. Instead, it ended peacefully. That is what public leaders should do — bring people of a community together, not sow division, anger and fear. #unityincommunity”
Chapman’s hashtag — #AllLivesMatter — does not mean he was indifferent to the murder May 25 of George Floyd at the hands of officers of the Minneapolis Police Department, one of the incidents that ignited the wave of Black Lives Matter protests and racial unrest across the U.S. Chapman said in a May 29 Facebook post that he was “disgusted and saddened by what happened to George Floyd,” but he added that the “riots are criminal; lawlessness will not be tolerated. I will defend our constitutional right to peacefully assemble, but this type of criminal behavior will not be tolerated!”
On June 7 he said, “What happened to George Floyd was horribly wrong, and the officers must face swift justice. I am saddened that what could be peaceful protests have turned into lawlessness and riots. Protests do not include vandalism, looting or harming others.”
Chapman has also offered mild support for the campaign against racial injustice, noting that “a group of bipartisan senators, myself included, have met with leaders of the black community in Des Moines.” He said he supports “lawful protests done in the right way, in the right place, at the right time.”
Happily, not every comment on Chapman’s post called for blood. Some Chapman fans lightheartedly mocked and derided the protests, the protesters, the cause of racial justice, the history of racism in the U.S. and the political correctness of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and Confederate flags and statues.
As a man of the people, Chapman sometimes condescended to click “Like” on a number of the Facebook comments he attracted, including all of the following:
- “When is the government gonna stop this? Or (do) we armed civilians have to take action then be in trouble because we took action? This is unacceptable. Take action before it turns into a civil war.”
- “Get something started! We are all sick of this, it’s just going to continue unless we put a stop to it! It’s heartbreaking to the business’s that are destroyed, peoples lives lost, no freedom anymore. We’re turning into a communist country!”
- “Let me put it to you this way, Jake. If the people we pay to enforce our laws don’t start enforcing them, then we will. Nobody wants what that will look like. Get it under control.”
- “They are turning us into a third world country. I grew up in one and left to come to the USA. There is a reason for that. Someone has to save us from this insanity.”
The editorial about Chapman’s Facebook statement in the Iowa Standard, a conservative blog serving Iowa’s Republican legislators, claimed that with his call for National Guard intervention in Des Moines, “Chapman is filling a necessary gap in leadership among Republicans not just in Iowa but across this nation.”
“A nation and a society cannot function like this,” the Iowa Standard author said. “A private business has rights, too. An angry mob should not be allowed to block public streets and shout expletives in front of a private business on private property.”
The author called for a vigorous defense of private property and a prompt return to tranquility and the status quo.
“A peaceful protest, sure,” said the Iowa Standard. “However, the right to peaceably assemble cannot trump someone else’s private property rights. People doing their grocery shopping on a Sunday afternoon in Des Moines, Iowa, should not have to worry about their children being exposed to what was said and done at Hy-Vee on Saturday.”
A fundraising video accompanying the Chapman editorial on the Iowa Standard website made similar claims about the general unrest over police brutality and racial injustice. The American Principles Project fundraising pitch claimed Democrats want to “desecrate all we hold sacred” and “cancel the Fourth of July.” It said Democrats want to “end America as we know it,” and it asked, “Should our children really be taught America is evil?”
On Tuesday Chapman linked to a story about far-left activist Shaun King — no relation to Iowa’s lame-duck Congressperson Steve King — who said all images depicting Jesus Christ as a “white European” should be torn down because they are a form of “white supremacy.”
“Wake up, America!” said Chapman to his Iowa Senate district 10 base. “Now is not the time to sit silently on the sidelines!”
With his strenuous defense of the rule of law, the right to bear arms and also fireworks, the inviolability of private property, the sacredness of life and the honor due Christian and Confederate statuary and with his willingness to deploy the U.S. military against all enemies foreign and domestic, Chapman appears to be a worthy successor to the soon-to-be-silenced nine-term Iowa Congressperson Steve King.