Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Placerville is a pleasant place to spend a day visiting wineries and touring historical buildings from the Gold Rush era. The small California city once did its best to shed the rough days of the mining camps back when it was known as Dry Diggings or Hangtown, before embracing the image all over again to lure in the tourists.
Placerville’s logo is bordered by rope, its former name, ‘Old Hangtown’, gets second place on the town seal, and behind the miner panning for gold is a noose hanging from a tree.
And that noose is the problem.
A Los Angeles Times screed complained about the challenges of bringing “even a whiff of the widespread reckoning on race to the conservative corners of California that need it the most.”
Placerville has 162 black people living there.
But a paranoid symptom of the endless reckoning and wrecking has been finding nooses all over the place. Bubba Wallace thought a pull rope in a NASCAR garage was a noose. White women have mistaken pinatas and swings for nooses while clutching their copies of Robin DeAngelo’s racist anti-racist tract. So there was no way that Hangtown was going to get away.
Placerville was getting rid of Hangtown all over again for the sake of respectability.
A petition falsely claimed that Hangtown “glorifies and celebrates a violent and racist history” and that it suggests that “racial hate crimes are acceptable.”
The Los Angeles Times insisted that “American Indians — along with Chinese immigrants and Mexicans” were the ones being strung up.
“Native people get left out of the conversation, even though, in this case, I feel certain they were the primary victims of mob justice or vigilantism or whatever you want to call it,” Brendan Lindsay, a history professor at Sacramento State, is quoted as saying.
A history professor telling readers he “feels” is not especially reassuring. But history, like Hangtown, is dead. And facts are just dry real things that no one really cares about.
Hangtown got the name after five men tried to rob a Mexican gold prospector named Lopez.
Three of the men were also accused of the previous murder of a Frenchman. One of them was from Chile or, variously, a Spainard, the other two were described as French.
The three were hung.
The other major hanging at Hangtown took place after a fight between Richard “Irish Dick” Crone and a Chilean miner.
Crone killed his Chilean opponent, and a contingent of Chilean miners took the lead in lynching him. Various accounts have Crone either cursing blasphemously or telling the lynch mob, “Don’t be impatient, gentlemen. I’ll soon give you a fair lay out.”
As in the case of who shot Liberty Valance, you often print the legend.
The gambling hall where Crone committed his murder is a popular Placerville stop for ghost hunters who claim that the boyish New Orleans gambler still haunts it today.
Hangtown got its name from a crime that occurred between, in modern politically correct parlance, Latinos. Its second most famous hanging was championed by Latinos.
Despite all the intersectional rhetoric about “indigenous” people, the Chilean miners were as European as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and would have killed anyone who said otherwise.
Two of the victims of Hangtown’s two pivotal crimes were from south of the border. Two of the men who were hung were Frenchmen who didn’t speak English. One was Irish.
But in an era when pinatas, pull ropes, and swings can be mistaken for nooses, mere facts are weak things to put up against performative emotive hysteria. The Los Angeles Times insists that Placerville needs to make a reckoning with its racist history when it lynched the French and the Irish. And so Hangtown’s name and the noose from its city have to go.
The petition to keep the noose and the name earned three times as many signatures as the petition to take them off. But politicians have stopped listening to voters as well as to the facts.
Placerville got its current name when the city fathers decided to shed its old history for respectability. After revisiting that history for glamor and tourism, they’re shedding it again.
Does it matter to anyone outside Placerville whether it keeps the Hangtown name and noose?
Hangtown’s actual history does have some troubling things for all of us to reckon with. The California mining camps were lawless and multicultural. The wildest western doesn’t even come close to capturing the state of lawlessness or the response by an armed male population.
The rope wasn’t the racist tool of repression by white men against minorities.
People from all across the world arrived during the California Gold Rush. Many didn’t speak English. And many shrugged at robbery and murder. Tribal encampments popped up based on region and language. People grouped together with those of their own kind for security.
Regardless of what a history professor “feels”, everyone lynched and was lynched.
Mexicans, Chileans, Indians, Chinese, black and white men killed and hung each other. Larger parties could assemble for firefights. Vendettas dragged in innocent people of the wrong race.
There were indeed racist massacres, but they weren’t limited to any one side.
In a tribal atmosphere when people didn’t even share a common language, vigilante bands took out an atrocity on any male members of the group, white, Mexican, Indian, that carried it out.
This is why we have police and a justice system.
“That’s ‘justice,’ as in ‘vigilante justice,’ which pairs nicely with the Trump administration’s current, racist re-branding of it as ‘law and order.’” the Los Angeles Times stupidly rants. “Then as now — whether it’s an Indigenous man in what’s now Placerville, labeled by a mob jury as a thief and hanged, or a protester in Portland, labeled by federal agents as violent and grabbed from the streets — it’s the same extrajudicial punishment being unfairly meted out against Black and brown people, and white allies.”
Law and order is the alternative to vigilante justice. It’s what keeps racist violence from taking over. The media and the Democrats oppose judicial punishments for criminals as unfair. But without police and a functional judicial system, vigilante justice, fair or unfair, takes over.
Just ask the folks at CHOP during their Summer of Love.
Black Lives Matter and the racist hate group’s allies, when they aren’t complaining about the noose in Hangtown, want to defund the police and take us back to the California mining camps. And if you think that’s an exaggeration, look at the rising rate of murders in Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and New York City. It’s the Gold Rush, but with drugs as their gold.
And while there were few women and children in the California mining camps, there are plenty of them being shot and even killed as collateral damage in gun battles between urban gangs.
Take away the police, and what’s left is crime and vigilante justice.
Like the California camps, urban areas are dangerous, violent, and tribal, filled with ethnic and racial groups that don’t share a common language or even a common moral code.
Democrat activists are urging us to imagine a world without police. That’s easy enough to do. Go back in time, tear down the suburbs, the 911 system, prisons, and revert back to a world in which safety comes from being part of an armed group ready to kill or be killed.
Placerville is a warning. Underneath every placid town exterior lies something darker and uglier. Civilization is moral, but it’s also institutional. The California camps were what happened when large multicultural male populations, prone to taking risks, made their own law and security.
America’s major cities, and, increasingly some of its towns and suburbs, are the scenes of violent clashes between young risk-taking males who aren’t married and aren’t interested in raising families, but find their own gold rush in selling cocaine, heroin, meth, and other drugs.
Defund the police and the history of Hangtown won’t be the past, it’ll be our future.