Saturday, June 4, 2016

San Jose Anti-Trump Protests and the Right to Assemble

I will not vote for Donald Trump in the fall election. There are numerous reasons for this, too many to list here. I think that Trump is despicable for spreading rumors and lies about President Obama's birthplace and religion. I think Trump is a bigot with a history of bigoted words and actions. But there are many people who will vote for Trump. I don't think that all of these people are horrible racists and/or inbred rural residents with stingy dental plans and roiling resentment over Reconstruction. But even if that were indeed the case the fundamental deal in America is that everyone gets to have a say, including people that we dislike or even hate. This was actually going to be another post on the importance of the entire First Amendment. That post may show up later with a slightly different emphasis, I guess. It all depends on the Day Job workload. But if you didn't hear about it already, on Thursday, people who were apparently opposed to Donald Trump physically attacked a number of Trump supporters at a Trump rally in San Jose, California. Now there are better writers than I who will argue in flowery abstruse academic language that Trump has legitimized a certain level of political violence through his ugly words and/or has no problem with violence as long as "his people" are delivering the beatdowns. In this POV all the San Jose protesters were doing is responding to previous violence. It's Trump and his goons who are the real bad guys. Right. This sounds good but it completely misses the point. Every American has the right to peacefully assemble and support the candidate of his/her choice without being physically attacked. Period. If we can no longer agree on that basic point then this country really does need to break apart. Let's call it a day. There is no level of rhetoric that makes it okay to respond with violence. SAN JOSE, Calif. —Protests outside a Donald Trump rally in downtown San Jose spun out of control Thursday night when some demonstrators attacked the candidate’s supporters. Protesters jumped on cars, pelted Trump supporters with eggs and water balloons, snatched signs and stole “Make America Great” hats off supporters’ heads before burning the hats and snapping selfies with the charred remains. “The San Jose Police Department made a few arrests tonight after the Donald Trump Rally,” police said in a statement. “As of this time, we do not have specific information on the arrests made. There has been no significant property damage reported. One officer was assaulted.” In one video circulating widely on social media, two protesters tried to protect a Trump supporter as other protesters attacked him and called him names. 

Perhaps the most jarring scene was that of a young female Trump supporter being attacked by a crowd of protesters. In multiple videos of the incident, the woman initially appeared to be happily posing in her Trump football jersey in front of the mostly male protesters, some of whom can be heard whistling and shouting at her. 
Then an anonymous arm rises over the crowd and tosses an egg at the woman, striking her in the head and eliciting howls and laughter from the crowd. A second later, a red water balloon bursts against the woman’s arm. At first, the woman tries to shrug off the attacks, smiling while appearing to reach out toward the Mexican flags that some protesters are waving. Objects keep crashing into the convention center windows behind her, however, and protesters can be heard screaming expletives at her. Suddenly, another projectile strikes her hard in the face. Eventually, someone comes to help her and, after she indicates that she is having trouble seeing, she is ushered back inside the convention center.

Although excessive American nationalism is unpopular with some, do protesters (citizens or not) really think that waving a foreign flag while attacking American citizens is going to make American voters more sympathetic to their cause? It irritated me and I despise Trump. It is a HORRIBLE bit of messaging. There's just no way around this. All the protesters are doing is confirming the stereotypical narrative of some Trump supporters. The proper way to respond to a charge that people of Mexican heritage and/or left wing political stances are violent is probably not for people with one or more or those characteristics to go into the streets and beat people up. I can respect the strong feelings of attachment to one's native land or to the land of one's parents. But carrying the Mexican flag while burning the US flag sends the wrong message to US citizens, even those who won't vote for Trump under any circumstances. In this country, ideally we have campaigns and elections in order to peacefully try to convince each other of the rightness of our positions. If political violence in the US becomes normalized again then I dare say we will start to look more like the countries which many of our current immigrants (legal or otherwise) fled. Or worse we will look like the US of the 1920s. And that would be a shame. Increased political violence based on ethnic grievance supports the thesis of people at both extremes of the political spectrum who are convinced that assimilation is a waste of time because demography is destiny. Whether it's an aged Trump supporter throwing elbows or a youthful Trump detractor punching someone political violence is wrong and dangerous. This needs to stop now before it winds up impacting the actual election. Do we really want to decide elections based on who can bring more button men to the polls? If anti-Trump protesters feel emboldened enough to beat up people for attending a Trump rally then what will they do to people who vote the "wrong" way? This may sound like fun and games if you're a thug who happens to live in an area where the overwhelming majority is demographically and ideologically identical to you. It's probably not so great if you are the lone Black family in the town of Keep Running N*****!!, Mississippi. No matter what your political beliefs may be using violence against people simply for having opposing thoughts is wrong. The only legitimate reason for violence is self-defense. Self-defense was not what happened in San Jose. That is not what this country is supposed to represent.

This isn't about whether we like Trump or not. I've been clear that I don't like Trump. It's about what's right or wrong. Since I called out the Trump bullyboys who felt empowered to throw elbows when they outnumbered people they didn't like I must do the same for the San Jose whack jobs who think they can put paws on their political opponents. That behavior is disgusting no matter who does it. Saying that Trump's supporters deserved some smacks is the same logic that blames an abused spouse for not shutting up and thus avoiding a beating. It's dumb logic. If the US can allow American Nazis to exercise their rights to protest, organize and march let's not have excuses claiming that the Trump supporters deserved what they got. I don't want a heckler's or rather rioter's veto on political speech. Once you start going down the path that your political opponents do not have the right to gather or speak then you're letting everyone know that you do not believe in or for that matter belong in a constitutional form of government. Again, some may believe and for all I know may be correct that Trump supporters are scum. But even scum get to vote and express themselves. On Thursday a small mob of people assaulted other people because they didn't like their political views. What happens when they decide they don't like what someone else wrote or what religion someone is? Free speech and the right to assemble are important elements of the fabric of democracy. When you start pulling those strings willy nilly the entire political quilt falls apart like a cheap suit. This crap needs to end. Because we know what the next move is. But who knows what happens after that? You want to beat Trump? You want to wipe the smirk off his face and those of his supporters? Register and vote. But attacking people at a political rally is stupid, counterproductive and morally abhorrent.

What's your take on these incidents?

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