Donald Trump is letting the world know that his right to free speech is being violated! He’s being trampled by the jackboots of the protesters that have been greeting him at each rally he’s held! Donald Trump is being oppressed, repressed, and suppressed! And by God and America, he’s not gonna take it anymore!
On March 11, protests in Chicago caused the businessman and presidential candidate to cancel his rally that day. Donald Trump, as well as multiple pundits on the right, have all declared anti-Trump protests and rallies as violations of the 1st Amendment due to threat of violence and coercion.
If violence were indeed being perpetrated by protesters, or if the Trump rallies themselves were being unfairly disrupted, he might have a point. And protesters have indeed made their way into Trump rallies. Some have been disruptive, and were subsequently removed. And then, some stood or sat silently, letting their presence or attire do the speaking – and they were usually removed as well.
Yep, just like when Rose Hamid suffered abusive screaming and eventual removal from a Trump rally in South Carolina. What did she do? She stood in silence, with a t-shirt proclaiming, “Salam, I come in peace.”
Trump’s campaign manager assaulted a Breitbart reporter after a very polite and diplomatic question.
In Georgia, 30 people were removed from a rally – all black, all peaceful.
Outside of the rallies, protests have been largely peaceful, though clashes broke out in St. Louis on the 11th, and police in Kansas City pepper sprayed a (mostly) peaceful crowd outside of a Trump rally on the 12th.
Thus far, almost all of the violence has been committed by Trump supporters within the rallies themselves. To hear Trump speak of it though, you’d think the opposition to him was creating an atmosphere of intimidation and danger.
”I think this not a good group — really spiteful of First Amendment rights. If we ever did that to them it would be a national disgrace, a national story the likes of which you have never seen.”
Donald, I do not think “First Amendment Rights” means what you think it means.
So far, a few of his rallies have been delayed, and one cancelled, due to loud protesters within the arena itself. Many protesters were quiet and respectful. Many of both stripes have been met with aggression, verbal abuse, and sometimes violence.
Trump wants it both ways.
He claims to take the high road. He states he doesn’t condone violence. He claims he’s being bullied by those who oppose his candidacy.
Donald offered to cover the legal fees of a supporter who sucker-punched a protester, and who had also professed a willingness to kill for his cause. This is a perfect example of inciting violence. Threatening or encouraging violence to those who disagree is most certainly a method of suppressing free speech and assembly. Trump stated of the man, “He obviously loves his country.”
Sucker-punching as patriotism. Does cowardly violence and a lack of self control indicate a love of one’s land?
“See, in the good old days this doesn’t happen, because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, you know, they would not do it again so easily…. They get away with murder because we’ve become weak.”
“I love the old days — you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”
“You see, in the good old days, law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this, a lot quicker. In the good old days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast. But today, everybody’s politically correct. Our country’s going to hell with being politically correct.”
Donald claims to be the one who is the victim of suppression and intimidation. Yet his own words belie those fears. After a November rally in Alabama in which a protester was physically beaten, Trump spoke out in support of the mob. “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
So, are people exercising their right to free speech and free assembly suppressing Donald Trump? Or, could it be that his exhortations to his supporters to commit violence are the real coercion?
So far, Trump has managed to successfully hold all but one rally on his campaign tour. He has spoken in front of crowds that rival Bernie Sanders’. He has dominated televised news coverage, and had more speaking time during debates than any other Republican candidate. Trump’s celebrity has allowed a massive head start in name recognition over all of his opponents, possibly save for Hillary Clinton.
Now, it’s fair to say that disruption of an actual rally from inside – through violence or intimidation – is indeed a problem, and not fair to someone attempting to make a speech. At this point though, Trump has enjoyed a remarkable advantage in terms of media coverage over every other major candidate, including the Democrats. More airtime and column inches have been devoted to the loudmouth reality star than to career politicians, narcoleptic surgeons and failed CEOs.
His truculent and defensive language has been contradictory. He encourages his supporters to commit acts of violence in his name, and to pledge loyalty to him with bizarre and scary salutes during rallies. Then he claims people disagreeing with him are preventing him from speaking his mind and exercising his constitutional rights. Of course, he makes these statements during rallies, unimpeded.
His followers are listening, too. Slate.com had compiled a running list of violence against protesters throughout this primary season.
He also has accused the Bernie Sanders campaign of organizing the anti-Trump protesters, and actually threatened to send counter-protesters of his own to Sanders rallies. Bernie had a biting response.
Electoral politics can be rough. No question. But it’s been a long time since an actual major-party Presidential candidate has openly threatened citizens and opponents. Claims that he is being oppressed come across as almost funny, were it not for the stakes.
When one claims to be oppressed, then vows to combat that through returned oppression, you don’t have real discourse or even simply a rough campaign. You have war and chaos. It’s fascinating to political experts, and will probably be a treat for future historians, but for now, we have to live in this mess.
There’s a disconnect I see from many people who express political opinions, then face disagreement, especially online. They see free speech as their right to say anything they want, with no consequences. Problem is, that’s not free speech. Freedom of speech simply guarantees that the government can’t prevent or prosecute speech (that doesn’t lead to harm for others). That’s it. That freedom means that any response that doesn’t suppress the rights of others is allowed, too. Trump can say hurtful and dangerous things, but people can assemble peacefully and tell him he’s wrong. And if he threatens those who would exercise their rights, then he’s the one guilty of oppression.
Trump has spent his entire campaign making bold proclamations without substantive detail or support, inventing facts and statistics, and demonstrating a lack of interest in truth, accuracy, or even sanity.
And it’s working great so far. Maybe he’ll hit a roadbump when he finally faces off against a Democrat this fall. And maybe his counterintuitive campaign will finally collapse. Until then, he’s not going to stop claiming one thing while doing exactly the opposite. And at least in the primaries, the voters won’t care.
As always, the reading list: