The gap between Middle Americans and our cultural elite is nowhere wider than on questions of crime and punishment. While activists on the bench and in academia have crafted ever more rights and privileges for those accused and even convicted of crimes, they have given short shrift to the rights and welfare of current and potential victims. In fact, prosecutors and groups like the ACLU pursue intended victims who exercise self-help against their assailants with a vigor and venom which in a more sensible polity would be directed towards those from whom protection is sought. (I am thinking not only of the tribulations of New York’s Bernhard Goetz, but also of the oft-burglarized Miami shopowner Prentice Rasheed, who finally booby-trapped his premises against unwanted intruders—and was prosecuted.) By the manifestation of a perverted sort of noblesse oblige, well-off liberals have anointed lawbreakers as the real victims, victims of the ordinary citizenry’s failure to provide enough money for AFDC, food stamps, educational loans, or whatever, and therefore not responsible for their crimes.

What some may consider an exaggerated concern for the interests of violent criminals (suffering from inadequate education and incomes) pales in comparison with the veritable red carpet rolled out for the rich and famous when they decide to flout the law for fashionable causes. Take, for example, the protests at the South African Embassy in Washington, DC, in violation of a law prohibiting demonstrations at foreign diplomatic missions. Of the thousands “arrested,” not one has been prosecuted, much less convicted. On the other hand, rabbis demonstrating in the same manner, but at the Soviet Embassy protesting religious persecution, have been jailed for the same offense.

What is probably the nation’s longest running series of politically motivated illegal actions continues in Minneapolis. For more than four years, masses of protesters in the hundreds and sometimes thousands have periodically converged upon the international headquarters of Honeywell Inc. and have proceeded to blockade all entrances and exits, preventing employees and visitors from either going in or coming out for up to an entire day. These assemblages are intended to dramatize (and maximize media coverage of) the participants’ indignation not only at Honeywell’s defense contracts but over other liberal bete noires—like aid to the Nicaraguan contras, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and the Reagan Administration’s foot-dragging on South African sanctions. Exactly why Honeywell is to blame for all these ills is not immediately obvious.

Why have activists targeted Honeywell, by any reasonable measure, a more “socially conscious” corporation than most? After all, the company has used corporate funds to finance “peace” conferences at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey Institute. Its chief executive officers have published pro-disarmament articles and have gone out of their way to express sympathy for the objectives of the demonstrators. As if that were not enough, the company is pulling out entirely from South Africa.

Part of the problem is that Honeywell’s location is so darned convenient for well-heeled protesters. The company chose not to locate its headquarters in some dreary and remote industrial site, like the facilities of another major Minnesota defense contractor, FMC Corp., which have never been invaded by the “peace” movement. Instead, Honeywell set up shop virtually adjacent to Minneapolis’ downtown, with a park on its premises to attract the public. Even more to the point, the complex is only a couple of miles from the city’s prime upper-middle-class residential districts and closer still to the most popular area of yuppie gentrification. Led by the usual claque of professional radicals, Minnesota’s haute monde has taken to blockading Honeywell as an ideal pastime on brilliant Minnesota spring and fall days.

In fact, an inveterate presence and frequent arrestee at these happenings is Erica Bouza, wife of Minneapolis police chief Anthony Bouza, who has become a favorite on the wine-and-brie circuit, a unique accomplishment for a law enforcement officer.

For upwards of three years, Chief Bouza has shown unusual solicitude for the comforts of lawbreakers by providing coffee and doughnuts for those arrested at Honeywell. Mr. Bouza told the local press last April that the illegal blockades were “democracy at its best” and that the hungry and thirsty demonstrators taken into custody “are decent people who are taking part in an act of conscience.”

The complaisance of Minnesota’s governing establishment only begins with the police chief and extends to the state’s highest court. Almost from the beginning, the protesters during these trials have not denied violating state trespass laws but have insisted that the moral superiority of their views on U.S. disarmament and other matters of import should supersede the dictates of the criminal law. The use of this strategem was soon thwarted by a panel of trial judges which ordered that such testimony be excluded from the courtroom as irrelevant to whether a crime had been committed and serving only to appeal to the political and other prejudices of jurors. In an unprecedented decision a few months later, however, the Minnesota Supreme Court threw out the lower court order and ruled that the Honeywell defendants could not be barred from exercising what it called their constitutional right to make political appeals to juries and judges. As a result, juries have acquitted many if not most of the Honeywell blockaders even though virtually none have denied encroaching on the company’s property and harassing its employees. Those not absolved by juries generally were released with “suspended sentences” by judges.

The arrogation of a privileged status by elite lawbreakers is, of course, a far cry from Henry David Thoreau’s and Martin Luther King’s philosophy and practice of civil disobedience. Far from eschewing the discomforts of the county jail, both affirmed that those breaking the law must willingly accept the consequences of their illegal conduct.

The organized pampering of the Honeywell lawbreakers, usually a model of efficiency, does occasionally break down, however. After one of her arrests in 1983, Mrs. Bouza had the misfortune of being tried before one of Minneapolis’ only conservative judges, a former Republican state party chairman, who sentenced her to 10 days in jail.

More recently, at an October 1986 blockade of Honeywell, the 70 police officers assigned to the demonstration inexplicably did not bring along enough doughnuts to serve all those arrested. In a state of some dudgeon, Mrs. Bouza (one of those not fed) complained to Chief Bouza on behalf of all the protesters so mistreated. Mr. Bouza responded by assigning two high-ranking police officers to investigate. The officers, the deputy chief for patrols and the police department’s civil defense coordinator, returned with a report revealing that only 60 doughnuts were procured to begin with and, worse, some policemen had eaten a few. Presumably, the demonstrators will not suffer a similar affront in the future. Mrs. Bouza pronounced herself “partially satisfied.”

Quite apart from the farce of it all, the indulgence of the Honeywell blockaders by the ostensible guardians of the rule of law has relegated their victims to the status of forgotten men and women. Neither the Minnesota Supreme Court justices nor the Minneapolis police leadership has deemed worthy of mention the rights of Honeywell employees prevented from entering or leaving their workplace. And they have not been the only victims. Along with the losses suffered by Honeywell and its employees, the demonstrators have saddled local governments with costs for cleanup, police protection, prosecutors, judges, juries, courtrooms, and other public services. Chief Bouza himself has estimated that the costs of a single day’s blockade could be as high as $300,000 for Minneapolis taxpayers.

Finally, while the police chief and two top assistants were giving high priority to investigating the now-famous doughnut shortfall, the police department’s research arm, with a sense of timing which can only have been divinely inspired, released a report disclosing that serious crimes in Minneapolis had increased by 14 percent over the past year and had gone up for 21 consecutive months.

Far be it to suggest any connection between the highly publicized police and judicial winking at some crimes and the waxing of the rate of others. It is, our betters assure us, just a coincidence.